If there was any doubt regarding Corey Rosenfeld's recent selection as the Three Rivers League's player of the year, it was erased on Tuesday after Lakeridge's first-round playoff game.
For a while, the Pacers looked like they might be forced to relive last year's debacle in which they were ousted in the opening round of the postseason despite perhaps being the frontrunner to capture the state title.
But Rosenfeld and Lakeridge rallied from two separate deficits to emerge with a wild 6-3 victory over Southridge.
Minutes into the game it appeared that the Pacers may not have much trouble with the speedy Skyhawks. In the fourth minutes, Facundo Dipascuale chased down a ball that straddled Southridge's end line and hit a perfect cross, which Eric Destefano volleyed into the net.
'After that first goal, I wasn't comfortable. I knew it was going to take several to win,' Pacer coach Paul Slover said.
Lakeridge controlled the flow of the game early but the tide shifted drastically at the midpoint of the half. In the 21st minute, Southridge's Jace Green took a great feed from Amir Tanaomi and easily knocked in his team's first goal.
That tally triggered a momentum shift that saw the Skyhawks dominate the next 15 minutes of play.
In the 29th minute, a hard foul on Rosenfeld gave Southridge a free kick from 25 yards out. Shaun Gustke took the kick and a deflection threw off Lakeridge goalie Jason Dodson just enough to allow the ball to slip past him.
The Pacers were back on their heels again but Rosenfeld took it upon himself to shift the momentum again.
With just 50 seconds remaining in the half, Rosenfeld made a run from midfield and beat four defenders before depositing a rocket into the top left corner of the net.
'He definitely earned his title tonight. Absolutely unbelievable,' Slover said.
The Pacers nearly took the lead 30 seconds later when Dipascuale came up with a steal and fired a shot just wide before the half came to a close.
'I was a little concerned about our composure because we really haven't been tested. This is a good Metro team that's always going to be competitive,' Slover said.
Southridge's speedy forwards continued to give Lakeridge trouble in the second half and, on the Skyhawks' first venture of the second stanza deep into Pacer territory, Israel Vega was taken down in the box, resulting in a penalty kick.
Green easily knocked in the kick as the Skyhawks reclaimed the lead with 36 minutes to play.
'I didn't expect to give up three goals tonight. The team did really well to not lose their composure and keep themselves in this game,' Slover said.
Lakeridge wasn't down for long. Just four minutes later, Destefano fired a shot from point blank range which was blocked by Southridge goalie Andrew Bonifacio.
The rebound found its way to Rosenfeld from nearly 35 yards away. He noticed that Bonifacio was still slightly out of position and hit a perfect shot into the net to knot the score once again.
From that point on, the Pacers dominated the contest. Just three and a half minutes after tying the game, Rosenfeld completed his hat trick when he guided a feed from Johnathan Warner towards the far post and into the net.
Lakeridge got off 17 shots in the second half alone as it dominate the time of possession. The physical nature of the game also intensified. Midway through the half, Southridge defender Trent Oleszczuk collided with Destefano and was issued his second yellow card of the match, eliminating him from the contest.
With Lakeridge starting to play some of its best soccer of the season, Destefano all but put the game away in the 62nd minute on a feed from Dipascuale. Dipascuale got on the board himself with three minutes to play in the game when he came up with a steal and beat Bonifacio before putting a shot into the open net.
Lakeridge moves on to face Central Catholic on Saturday.