Mary Kate Cusack finished off Sunday’s Section II Class A championship field hockey game with a goal in the second overtime. Elizabeth Cusack’s significant contributions were a big reason why Shenendehowa was still around at that point.
“She played an amazing game,” Mary Kate Cusack said of her twin sister’s effort in a 2-1 win over Niskayuna. “She played great defense. Her instincts were perfect. She did what we needed her to do.”
Elizabeth Cusack scored a goal and excelled as Shenendehowa’s flyer on penalty corners before Mary Kate Cusack put the finishing touch on the Lady Plainsmen’s second straight title-game victory over the Silver Warriors.
The triumph gave Shenendehowa (No. 3 seed, 14-5) its third sectional crown in four years and its fifth overall, and denied Niskayuna (No. 1, 16-2) its third banner since 2006. The Lady Plainsmen also halted the Silver Warriors’ 15-game win streak.
“Being over and us on top, it’s a great feeling. Amazing,” Mary Kate Cusack said soon after notching her 16th goal of the season. “We wanted this game. Winning it was at the top of our list of things to do. I’m glad we were able to accomplish it.”
It was a struggle, though, with Niskayuna controlling the action for long segments of the contest on Schuylerville’s turf field.
“We were able to hold out until we were able to put the ball in the net,” said Shenendehowa coach Jeanne Frevola. “I kept telling the kids to hang in there.”
Niskayuna held a 17-7 advantage in penalty corners and a 13-4 advantage in shots against a Shenendehowa team it had beaten 2-1 in overtime twice during its perfect Suburban Council season.
“We had all the elements to make a goal, but we had a tough time finishing,” said Niskayuna coach Alison Broomhead. “It’s frustrating. We had a lot of opportunities inside the offensive circle, and we hit the post or their defense made a nice save. They deserve it.”
While freshman Melissa Nealon made 12 saves for Shenendehowa, Elizabeth Cusack broke up numerous Niskayuna bids after bursting from the cage when her team defended penalty corners, and as a center halfback in open play.
“I just went to the ball and tried to stop them from getting it close to the cage. I tried to break up plays,” Cusack said of her role on the penalty corners. “I tried to stop them and get to ball up to our forwards.”
Claire Young scored on Niskayuna’s fifth and final penalty corner of the first half, but the Silver Warriors came up empty in those situations seven times in the second half and five more times in the initial 10-minute overtime.
“She had a lot of stops. She messed up a lot of their corners,” Frevola said of Elizabeth Cusack. “With her coming out like that and Hope [Andrascik] filling in behind, it’s a nice combination.”
Shenendehowa got its winning goal on the only penalty corner awarded in the second overtime, with 8:26 left. Elizabeth Cusack hit the ball in to Andrascik at the top of the circle, and Andrascik slipped it to Mary Kate Cusack on a right-to-left pass. Shenendehowa’s goal-scoring leader got around a defender with a quick spin move, fanned on the ball with a quick swipe, then ripped it into the low left corner past Niskayuna netminder Abby Coyne.
“Alice had a game plan to wrap up Mary Kate,” said Frevola. “She’s always had a nose for the cage, and she was able to get us a big one.”
“I wasn’t expecting a goal because we pushed it out so many times before,” said Broomhead. “I thought we’d get the ball and get momentum going the other way.”
As juniors last year, Mary Kate Cusack set up Andrascik for the game-winning goal in the first overtime when Shenendehowa edged Niskayuna, 3-2, for the championship. Their connection Sunday made Shenendehowa Section II’s first back-to-back Class A titlist since Johnstown in 1996 and 1997.
“It doesn’t happen because the Suburban Council is so strong. Every year, it’s someone else,” said Frevola. “The programs are so close. The coaches know each other, and the kids know each other’s moves.”
Elizabeth Cusack completed a successful penalty corner on her close-range goal with 18:26 left in the first half. She started the play with a hit up top to Andrascik, who fed Mary Kate Cusack like she did later on for the deciding goal.
“I was trying to score, but the ball went slow off my stick,” Mary Kate Cusack said of her assist. “Good thing she [Elizabeth Cusack] was there to hit it in.”
Young tapped the ball past Nealon with 6:42 left in the first half after Sydney Bowker’s started a penalty corner with a hit up top to Katie Wells, and Wells unleashed a low, hard drive.
Niskayuna’s Erin Down hit the post earlier in the half, and Bowker nailed the post with 7:35 left in the second half.
Coyne made two saves, and Nealon made the last of her 12 saves in the first overtime, one a superb pad stop.
“Niskayuna definitely put a lot of pressure on our defense,” said Elizabeth Cusack. “We had to step up. We held them off.”
Lady Bills prevail
After losing to Glens Falls in the last three Class B finals, Johnstown finally wrestled the championship away from the Indians with a 4-2 victory in which Ashley Dona produced two goals.
Dona gave Johnstown (No. 2 15-2) a 3-2 lead late in the first half, and Emma Heroth added an insurance goal early in the second. Alicyn Stautner also scored in the Lady Bills’ first title-game win since 2003 and 14th in all.
Shea Homer and Emily White had goals for Glens Falls (No. 1, 17-2). The Indians’ other loss came against Shenendehowa.
Greenwich (No. 1, 19-0) surrendered its first goal this year, but got two from Dani DeGregory beforehand in a 2-1 Class C title-game win over Schuylerville (No. 7, 9-9).
Greenwich has outscored its opponents, 81-1. Danielle Gaertner tallied for the Black Horses late in the second half.
The Section II champs will see state regional action Saturday at Greene High School against the Section IV representatives. Shenendehowa will play Greene (15-0) at 1, Johnstown will take on Maine-Endwell (11-1-1) at 3 and Greenwich will meet Sidney (10-7-1) at 5.
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