The margin of victory was a surprise, and so was the way Niskayuna went about toppling Saratoga Springs Wednesday in a game matching the Suburban Council’s leading field hockey teams.
The Silver Warriors notched their first four goals on penalty corners before Sydney Bowker’s successful breakaway with 40 seconds left capped a 5-0 win.
“We don’t usually score a lot of goals on penalty corners. We’re more of a fast-break and work-for-it-in-the-circle kind of team,” said Niskayuna coach Alison Broomhead. “We were connecting well with our second passes. The sticks were down, and we were in the right spots.”
Erin Down scored 50 seconds into the contest, and Claire Young and Bowker both knocked in two goals after that as Niskayuna (11-0, 12-1) completed a two-game league sweep of Saratoga (9-2, 10-3), and stretched its winning skein to 11 games.
“This gets us a step closer to the Suburban Council championship,” said Broomhead, who guided the Silver Warriors to league and Section II Class A titles in 2009. “The race isn’t over, but this was a big step.”
Niskayuna built a 3-0 halftime lead and then added on in a game unlike any of the recent meetings between the area field hockey heavyweights.
“We did not expect this,” said Young, a senior forward. “We were thinking this would be another close game. Probably a one-goal game. They’re such a great team.”
Niskayuna has lost only to three-time defending Section II Class B champion Glens Falls, 3-1. The Silver Warriors’ winning streak includes one-goal victories over Kingston and reigning Section II Class A champ Shenendehowa.
“Overall, they did more things that were better,” said Saratoga coach Jo-Anne Hostig. “It wasn’t for lack of effort. There was a lack of finishing it. We never got into a flow, and they did.”
“I don’t know if we’re peaking, but we’ve hit a steady pace,” Broomhead said. “We know each other well. We’re communicating well and making smart passes.”
Niskayuna edged Saratoga in overtime strokes, 3-2, in their first meeting on Sept. 16. All three of last year’s games between the rivals were decided by one goal, with Niskayuna taking two, including a 1-0 overtime verdict in the Section II Class A semifinals.
“This was our biggest game of the season, and our best game so far,” said Young. “We were concentraing on it all day, and we brought the intensity.”
Niskayuna grabbed momentum quickly when Down beat Saratoga netminder Lauryn Huck on the game’s first offensive thrust. Katie Wells assisted on Down’s close-range flick.
“That told us we can play at this level,” said Bowker, a senior forward. “Once we scored the first one, they just kept coming.”
“The quick goal gave us the knowledge that we can score against Saratoga. That goal told us we can do it,” Broomhead said. “We sometimes have a mental block with that.”
Young scored with 9:19 left in the first half, and delivered again 45 seconds later, with both of those goals assisted by Bowker.
Bowker’s rebound goal with 13:54 to go in the second half made it 4-0.
“They had a lot of good stuff in there,” Hosting said of Niskayuna’s efficiency on penalty corners. “They earned those goals.”
Penalty corners are most commonly awarded when a defensive player commits an infraction inside the circle. The team that gets the corner begins its attack with one player hitting the ball in from the back line, six others surrounding the circle and three more in the zone behind them. The defending team starts with its goalie and four teammates in or alongside the cage, and the rest of its players at the midfield line.
“We practice them all the time,” said Young. “We tried some different things and some of them worked out well for us.”
While Niskayuna made good on four of its 13 penalty corners, Saratoga came up empty on its five. Niskayuna flyer Janeen Bell played a key role in thwarting the Blue Streaks when they had the advantage in players.
“She [Bell] has speed, and she’s feisty,” Broomhead said of her senior sweeper. “She has no reservations going to the ball.”
Huck saw the ball often, and finished with 10 saves. Abby Coyne made just three at the other end in recording the shutout.
“This was a good reality check,” said Hostig. “Hopefully, it will fuel us a little more. This gives us another barometer of what we need to do.”
Saratoga had won six straight games since losing back-to-back decisions against Niskayuna and Glens Falls in overtime, 3-2.
Mary Kate Cusack scored two goals, Nicole DaCunha had a goal and an assist and Elizabeth Cusack knocked in a goal as Shenendehowa (7-4, 8-5) defeated Shaker, 4-0.
Columbia converted two of its overtime strokes and Guilderland made good on one in the Blue Devils’ 1-0 victory.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports