Niskayuna defensive midfielder Ryan Alden raced from one end of the field to the other and bounced the ball past Guilderland goalkeeper Christian DePersis midway through the opening quarter of Wednesday’s Suburban Council clash between Blue Division unbeatens.
The Silver Warriors never trailed again.
“Any time you have a long pole do something different, like score a goal, it definitely gets momentum swinging in your favor,” Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang said after a 15-2 victory on Guilderland’s field. “Momentum switched for good. That was a big turning point in the game.
“It was dramatic. He went from here to there, and had a nice bounce-shot to the upper corner.”
Alden’s second career goal came in a four-goal first-quarter run, and Niskayuna tallied four more times before the half was through en route to its 25th win in 26 games since the start of last season.
“It’s out of the ordinary any time a defensive player scores,” said Alden, a junior who is being recruited by Duke, Harvard and Notre Dame among other schools. “I really can’t speak for the other guys, but I know it [the goal] got me really focused in. It got me ready to play the rest of the game.”
Niskayuna (3-0 league, 4-0 overall) played by far its best game of the young season, dominating in all facets in a surpisingly one-sided result against a Guilderland (3-1, 4-1) team with league and Section II title aspirations.
“Coach really put the pressure on us in practice. He said Guilderland is a great team, and we really responded. I think it was our best game. Defense, offense, transition, it all clicked,” said Alden. “We played the game like it was a playoff game, like it was our last game. You hope they all go this well.”
“When the LaxPower poll came out, they were ranked fifth in the state [in Class A],” said Niskayuna senior midfielder Jared Franze, who had three goals and an assist. “We were excited to play them and see who was the best team.”
“The kids felt that this was an important game,” said Niskayuna defensive coordinator Chris Delano. “They wanted to step up.”
Colin Foster scored three goals for Niskayuna, Georgetown-bound Dan McKinney had two goals and an assist and Mark Penneton and Justin McKinney also delivered two goals. Panneton and Alden connected after Rory Nunamacher had given Guilderland a quick lead, starting a string of 11 consecutive goals for the eight-time Section II champs and this year’s Class B favorite.
“I was thinking, if Ryan can score, we can score,” said Franze. “I know that pumped me up to put a couple in.”
Niskayuna’s goals were a byproduct of several factors, including outstanding work on clears, Mike Hall’s 14 wins on 17 faceoffs, and a 48-32 advantage on ground balls. Alden led the way in that department with eight successful scoops.
“We didn’t have the ball,” said Guilderland coach Sean McConaghy. “When we did, we threw it away. I don’t know. We never played our game, and they played great.”
“I think it was one of those days. We won faceoffs, and that was one of our big focus areas. We shot well. We were able to get help and covered their shooters,” Vorgang said. “It was all working for us today. I wish we could do it like that every day.”
Niskayuna’s defense excelled in its biggest test to date, pinning down a Guilderland team that had previously knocked off Shaker (13-7), Columbia (15-3), Saratoga Springs (17-2) and Mercer Island of Seattle (12-7).
After Nunamacher scored with 9:18 left in the first quarter, Guilderland went cold until Paul Jones connected with 8:08 remaining in the contest. The Dutchmen managed 17 shots.
“I thought after we settled down, we played real well defensively,” said Alden. “We played as a team.”
Niskayuna goalies James Manchester, Stefan Sloma and Ian Verzoni were forced to make only 10 saves behind a group anchored by defensemen Steve Abba, Josh Martin, John Quinn and Sean Kirwan, Alden and shortstick midfielders Brendan Krol and Brendan Montrello.
“We had a few days to get ready for Guilderland, and that helped,” said Vorgang. “We had a good scout on them, Chris [Delano] implemented a defense scheme and they executed. We put our best long poles on their best, and we did a great job of sliding.”
The McKinney brothers both had a goal in the final minute of the first quarter, and the tandem also ended the second-quarter scoring after Panneton and Franze had delivered. Franze and Nolan Connors notched third-quarter goals, and Foster’s tally made it 11-1 in the fourth before Jones ended the string.
“In the four games before this we played real well,” McConaghy said. “We had it going until today. Now we’ve got to regroup and see what we can do.”
Niskayuna 4 4 2 5 — 15
Guilderland 1 0 0 1 — 2
Niskayuna scoring: Mark Panneton 2-0, Ryan Alden 1-0, Dan McKinney 2-1, Justin McKinney 2-0, Jared Franze 3-1, Nolan Connors 1-1, Colin Foster 3-0, Jack Larkin 1-0, Bobby Horan 0-1, Matt Sexton 0-1. Guilderland scoring: Rory Nunamacher 1-0, Paul Jones 1-0.
Goalkeepers: Niskayuna, James Manchester, 4 saves; Stefan Sloma, 5 saves; Ian Verzoni, 1 save. Guilderland, Christian DePersis, 6 saves; Alex Peebles, 3 saves.
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Categories: High School Sports