Control the ball and hit the mark.
The Niskayuna lacrosse team did both of those things in clinic-like fashion Saturday, and soared into its ninth straight Section II championship game.
Tanner MacIvor and Tyler Pantalone combined to win 21 faceoffs, Lucas Maloney scored four goals and Matt Sexton collected six points as the Silver Warriors took down Shaker, 18-6, in a Class A semifinal game.
“When Tanner and Tyler win faceoffs like today, it’s tough to beat you,” Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang said after his team’s 20th consecutive sectional victory
going back to the 2005 season. “When you’re winning possessions like that, it equals more shots, and today, we shot it well.”
Niskayuna (No. 2 seed, 15-3) piled up its 18 goals in 37 shots, with Sexton and Brian Schlansker both delivering three goals, and MacIvor and Blake Pfohl notching two apiece.
The Silver Warriors had two goals on the board before the game was two minutes old, built a 9-0 lead in the first half and strung together five unanswered goals in the second half as part of their second win over the Blue Bison (No. 6, 11-8) this year.
“We moved the ball very well, and we picked up ground balls very well,” said Maloney, a sophomore attackman who did all of his offensive damage, including an assist, in the first half. “We possessed the ball. We’ve got to do that against Shenendehowa.”
Niskayuna will be looking for some payback when it takes on defending Class A champ Shenendehowa in Wednesday’s 7:30 title game at Steuerwald Stadium. The Plainsmen (No. 1, 17-1) topped Ballston Spa in Saturday’s other semifinal, 15-3, for their 15th straight win.
That streak includes 6-5 and 9-4 Suburban Council wins over Niskayuna, which won the last two Class B titles, four straight Class A championships before that, and has 10 Section II banners in all.
“It’s going to take all of us,” said MacIvor, a junior midfielder.
“Everyone has to put in 100 percent, and we’ll see what happens. We’re getting into a groove and coming together. I think we can be the sectional champions.”
Shenendehowa was the last team to beat Niskayuna in the sectionals, in the 2004 Class A final, 8-7, in overtime.
“We didn’t play our game. They played better that day,” Maloney said of the May 17 9-4 loss at Shenendehowa, when the Plainsmen rattled off the game’s last five goals. “We’ve got to play better.”
Niskayuna played some superb ball Saturday, with wings Brendan Montrello, Andrew Fenaroli, Jack McCurty and Anthony Massaroni filling big roles in its faceoff success, Evan Quinn and backup Troy Manchester combining for nine saves, and 10 players factoring in the scoring.
“I was happier today than in a lot of our other games because we put in longer stretches of good
lacrosse. The quality part was a little longer today,” said Vorgang, whose team won the ground ball battle, 33-27, and took 13 more shots than Shaker. “We limited the poor lacrosse played. We put more quality minutes together, and that was our goal.”
Maloney scored three first-quarter goals, and his next tally 16 seconds into the second period made it 6-0. MacIvor scored eight seconds after that, after winning a faceoff and racing in toward Shaker netminder Dan Wargo (15 saves).
MacIvor repeated the play late in the third quarter for his second goal, that coming nine second after a tally by Montrello. Schlansker connected soon after MacIvor to give Niskayuna 14-4 lead heading into the final frame.
“Niskayuna plays a fast game. They can all pass and catch, and they exploit little mistakes,” said Shaker coach Shawn Hennessey. “You do that, and you can win a lot of games.”
Shaker had won seven straight games, capped by a 10-5 quarterfinal victory over Big 10 champ Christian Brothers Academy, before bowing on Niskayuna’s field. Holy Cross-bound attackman Jimmy O’Brien scored three goals for the Blue Bison, including their first with 3:01 left in the opening half.
“We knew we had to come out fast and hard,” said Maloney. “We wanted to put them on their heels.”
Brett Bernardo scored three goals with an assist, Tim Coll had two goals and three assists and Shenendehowa played shutout defense over the final three quarters in beating Ballston Spa (No. 4, 9-9) for the third time this season.
Max McAuliffe and Brian Rogers also scored three goals for the Plainsmen, who produced 15 for the second time in the sectionals after downing Schenectady in the quarterfinals.
Troy Gargiulo, Matt McDonald and Mark Leslie scored goals for first-time Class A semifinalist Ballston Spa, which had made two previous Class B semifinal appearances in 2002 and 2003 and lost both times.
The Scotties reached Saturday’s game when John DeGuardi scored in the final second of overtime in a 7-6 win over Suburban Council South Division champ Colonie.
NISKAYUNA 18, SHAKER 6
Shaker 0 1 3 2 — 6
Niskayuna 5 4 5 4 — 18
Shaker scoring: Jimmy O’Brien 3-0, Tim Leahey 1-0, Tim Preston 0-1, Joe Chiara 1-0, Steve Farrell 1-0, Dan Casale 0-1. Niskayuna scoring: Brian Schlansker 3-1, Lucas Maloney 4-1, Luke Goldstock 1-2, Matt Sexton 3-3, Brendan Montrello 1-1, Tanner MacIvor 2-2, Blake Pfohl 2-0, Mike D’Amario 1-0, Fabian Brunner 1-0, Alex D’Amario 0-1.
Goaltenders: Shaker, Dan Wargo, 15 saves. Niskayuna, Evan Quinn, 7 saves; Troy Manchester, 2 saves.
SHENENDEHOWA 15, BALLSTON SPA 3
Ballston Spa 3 0 0 0 — 3
Shenendehowa 3 3 5 4 — 15
Ballston Spa scoring: Troy Gargiulo 1-0, Mark Leslie 1-0, Matt McDonald 1-0, Alex Laurenza 0-1, Carm Pascuitto 0-1, Chris Ohnsman 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: Tim Coll 2-3, Mike Jenkins 1-2, Brett Bernardo 3-1, Brian Rogers 3-0, Joe Gaug 1-1, Kyle Marr 1-0, Max McAuliffe 3-0, Brian Powell 1-0, Joe Romano 0-1.
Goaltenders: Ballston Spa, Wayne Van Valkenburg, 12 saves. Shenendehowa, Bobby Wardwell, 4 saves; Patrick Wauben, 1 save.