Perfect run for a perfect lacrosse team

A timely three-goal spree enabled Niskayuna to turn back Suburban Council rival Guilderland, 6-3, an
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It was late in the third quarter Tuesday night, and the showdown between Suburban Council lac­rosse heavyweights Niskayuna and Guilderland was still up for grabs.

“It was so close. We needed some goals. We needed to get some momentum,” Silver Warriors junior midfielder Jared Franze said. “We needed to get on a run and dampen their spirits.”

Niskayuna did just that, and found a way to win for the 17th straight time this spring.

Franze, Steve D’Amario and Mark Panneton found the cage in the final five minutes of the third period as the nationally ranked Silver Warriors broke away from a one-goal lead and beat their biggest rival,

6-3, to wrap up the Blue Div­ision championship.

Franze and D’Amario, a sen­ior attackmen who will play at the University of Massachusetts, both notched two goals, and the Niskayuna defense turned in another

superb performance against the high-powered Dutchmen.

“They were winning faceoffs and getting possession of the ball, and it was their kids making plays,” Guilderland coach Sean McConaghy said of Niskayuna’s quick outburst which turned around a 3-2 contest. “Those are three pretty good players who got those goals.”

Goals were hard to come by for both teams before Franze kick-started the spree with an unassisted tally with 4:56 to go in the third quarter.

“I was yelling to my guys to make him go left,” McConaghy said. “He went left, three guys collapsed on him and he still scored. He made a good play.”

Guilderland (11-2 league, 15-2 overall) was forced to play catchup after Niskayuna (12-0 league) got second-quarter goals from Franze and D’Amario. The Dutchmen sliced their deficit to one goal twice, at 2-1 and 3-2, on third-quarter goals by Travis Moore and Quinn Connell.

“I thought we played pretty good tonight. A lot better than the first time,” McConaghy said of a 5-4 loss at Niskayuna on April 22, a game in which his team led, 4-2. “We didn’t turn it over like we did the first time, and we had a lot of opportunities to score.”

But while Niskayuna made good on its chances, Guilderland struggled to beat goalie James Manchester and his defense.

“We were holding the ball real well and listening to what our coaches were telling us,” said D’Amario. “When their defense broke down, we took advantage of our opportunities.”

D’Amario scored an unassisted goal with 1:50 left in the third quarter, and Panneton delivered a minute later after handling a pass from Seth Berggren to make it 6-2.

“It was important for us to get that run,” said Franze, who has scored at least one goal in every game, and boosted his season total to a team-high 44. “We wanted to show them we meant business.”

“Guilderland was playing well at the defensive end, and we tried to make a halftime adjustment. We tried to defuse their slide package,” said Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang, who has guided his teams to 12 straight division titles, and seven Section II championships since 1994. “The guys executed. A three-goal run is huge in a game like this.”

Aaron Cahill scored for Guilderland with 10:32 left in the fourth quarter, and Niskayuna — ranked No. 18 on the STX/Inside Lacrosse national poll — kept the Dutchmen at bay for the rest of the game in ending their nine-game winning streak.

“Defense wins our games. They come out strong every game,” D’Amario said of Steve Abba, Alex Billen-Calhoun and Paul

Sapia, among others. “They’re a little young but that doesn’t matter. To hold Guilderland to three goals is phenomenal.”

“I thought our long sticks did an awesome job against their best players,” said Vorgang.

And Manchester was strong behind them, making 11 saves, including five in the second quarter and another on a high drive by Cahill just seconds into the third period.

“When James plays well and sees the ball well, we’re a dramatically different team,” Vorgang said of Niskayuna’s only defensive starter from the 2007 season. “He’s such an important player for us.”

“Manchester came out and played another great game for us,” D’Amario said of the junior. “He was a little shaken up after giving up some goals against CBA [in Saturday’s 8-6 win], but tonight shows how he deals with adversity.”

“It’s nice to win our 12th straight division title, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Vorgang said. “It doesn’t mean anything until next week.”

Vorgang was referring to the Section II tournament, in which his teams have won the last three large-school crowns. Niskayuna finishes up its regular season Thursday night at home against Shenendehowa.

Niskayuna 0 2 4 0 — 6

Guilderland 0 0 2 1 — 3

Niskayuna scoring: Jared Franze 2-0, Dan McKinney 1-1, Steve D’Amario 2-0, Mark Panneton 1-1, Will McPartln 0-1, Seth Berggren 0-1. Guilderland scoring: Travis Moore 1-0, Aaron Cahill 1-1, Quinn Connell 1-0, Paul Jones 0-1.

Goalkeepers: Niskayuna, James Manchester, 11 saves. Guilderland, Nick Koss, 12 saves.

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