Niskayuna won’t be intimidated by Garden City in state lacrosse semis

Niskayuna has already engineered one upset in the boys’ state lacrosse tourn­ament, building a lead

Niskayuna has already engineered one upset in the boys’ state lacrosse tourn­ament, building a lead and holding off John Jay in a regional semifinal game.

The Silver Warriors believe they can do it again.

“We can definitely pull this out,” senior All-American Ryan Alden said of today’s matchup with four-time state champion Garden City. “We have to play within the schemes that our coaches came up with as part of our game plan.”

Niskayuna was working on those schemes Wednesday in the rain at Schen­ectady High School, prepping for today’s 3:30 p.m. state Class B semifinal contest at Hofstra University.

“We’re definitely confident, but not overconfident,” said Alden, who, along with 15 teammates, will be playing in a second semifinal after last year’s 15-8 triumph over Sayville. “Garden City is a great team. It’s a whole new day and a whole new game. It’s a new set of challenges.”

After guiding Niskayuna (17-4) to a 17-1 state quarterfinal win over Saugerties Tuesday, coach Mike Vorgang and his staff pored over film of Garden City’s 9-8 double-overtime victory against Comsewogue. Tom Gordon scored four goals for the Trojans (17-3, Section VIII), including the deciding tally 52 seconds into the second extra session, and Liam Kennedy added three goals.

“Our coaches studied film for hours so we would have a better chance to win,” said Alden. “Our coaches put so much work in that we feel we owe it to them to put in a good showing.”

Niskayuna has had several of them during its nine-game win streak, including an 8-7 victory over then-unbeaten Shenendehowa and Saturday’s 7-6 triumph over John Jay in which Matt Sexton scored three goals and Ian Verzoni came away with 14 saves.

Bobby Horan and Justin McKinney both had three goals and an assist, and Brian Schlansker collected two goals and four assists in the win against Saugerties as Niskayuna captured its fourth regional championship since 2000.

“I think we’re playing our best lacrosse right now. We’re much better now than we were a month ago,” said Vorgang, whose team is ranked No. 24 nationally by LaxPower; Garden City is ranked No. 12. “The guys have figured out what works for us, and they’ve worked hard to make it even better. It just took a lot longer than it usually does.”

Vorgang said his team will need to be extremely sharp in all facets in order to end Garden City’s 10-game winning streak and advance to a third state title game.

In the only previous meeting between the programs, in a 2000 state Class B semifinal, Garden City prevailed, 17-8, en route to its last New York championship.

“They’re an excellent defensive team. They have four excellent long poles and they put a lot of pressure on the ball carrier, and adjacent pressure on non-ball carriers,” Vorgang said. “The thing about pressure is if you can run by it, you can have good opportunities.”

Garden City has surrendered double-digit goals only once, in a 10-9 double-overtime loss to Wantagh, and has produced 10 goals or more 12 times.

“They’ve got good dodgers and great stick skills. They make good cuts,” said Alden, a defensive-midfielder who’ll attend Harvard. “They play good offense and defense. It should be a great matchup.”

During Wednesday’s practice, Vorgang stressed to his team the importance of a strong start. He’ll repeat the message on the long bus ride to Long Island, and before the game begins.

“In the first quarter, it’s imperative to let Garden City know we’re here to stay. It would be great if we can make them feel a little uncomfortable, like we did against John Jay,” Section II’s all-time winningest coach said. “We’ve got to win face­offs, gain possession, play some offense and defensively weather the storm.”

“We’ve got to show our con­fidence,” said McKinney, a senior attackman. “We’ve got to try to gain some momentum.”

Niskayuna’s first state semifinal win came in 2005 at the Class A level against West Islip, 11-6, before the Silver Warriors lost to West Genesee, 15-2. After beating Sayville in last year’s Class B semifinal, Niskayuna lost in the state title game to Canandaigua, 10-5.

“We’ve got 16 guys who have been there and know what to expect as far as the bus ride, the number of people that will be there and the college coaches that will be there,” said Vorgang. “It helps that we’ve been there and done that.”

Jamesville-DeWitt (20-0, Section III) and Irondequoit (13-7, Section V) will meet in the other state Class B semifinal at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game will be held at Stony Brook Un­iversity.

Categories: High School Sports

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