From two wins in a season to two wins from a state title.
With two goals late in the first half and a big dose of defense afterward, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boy’s soccer finds itself as close to a New York Class A championship as it did to a winless 2014 season:
“Last season we won two games, and now we’re going to states,” Spartans goalkeeper Alex Gigliotti said after Saturday’s 2-0 Class A regional win over Fowler at Colonie High School. “It’s crazy. It’s a miracle.”
No, just more good soccer from a group that went just 2-14-2 last fall.
“It’s the kids believing in what you’re doing,” Burnt Hills coach George Dudas said. “They bought in from the beginning. You get a couple of wins under your belt, and it goes from there.”
Dudas took over the Spartans midway through last season after Roy Pfeil stepped down. Dudas had previously coached the Spartans in a successful run that included Section II titles from 2005-07.
“Credit the kids,” Dudas said. “They got in the weight room. They played indoor. They worked to get here.”
The work of Gigliotti and Cormac Carr played a key role in their latest victory. Gigliotti made six of his 11 saves in a busy second half after Carr scored a goal and set up for another.
“Alex played amazing,” Carr said of his junior teammate. “That’s one of his best games this season.”
Gigliotti received great support from his surrounding cast led by Alex Glowa, John Charlton and Justin Ariel.
“They had their hands full,” Dudas said. “Their strikers are so creative and fast.”
Fowler (Section III, 15-4-2) pressed hard in the second half, with the Spartans (12-5-3) dodging several threats by the state’s No. 6-ranked team.
“After they got down 2-0 they were coming with everything they had,” Gigliotti said. “We did what we had to do defensively. We had to equal their intensity.”
Once in each half Fowler had a seam and a Burnt Hills defender bailed Gigliotti out with a save, and the Spartans eventually cleared the ball.
“I did make a couple of mistakes,” Gigliotti said. “I can count on my defense to be there.”
At the other end, Carr scored Burnt Hills’ first goal with 8:53 left in the first half on a rising rocket, and the senior’s strong run in the box led to a foul and a penalty kick with 2:40 to go.
Nick Hitt took the penalty kick and beat Myint Lwee.
“One goal wasn’t enough,” Carr said. “Getting two was really important.”
Carr scored the double-overtime game-winner when Burnt Hills edged Scotia-Glenville 2-1 for its first Section II championship in eight years. The Spartans reached the state title game that season and lost to Byram Hills 1-0.
“From two wins to two wins away from a state title. Awesome kids,” Dudas said. “They’ve represented our school so well. They’ve represented our section so well.
“When I saw these kids last year I knew they were high-caliber kids. They’re easy to coach. They want to please.”
Burnt Hills will meet Pearl River (Section I, 19-2) in a state semifinal game at 8:45 a.m. Saturday at Middletown High School.