Niskayuna High School graduate Kristin Armstrong will be inducted into the New York State High School Girls Soccer Hall of Fame Saturday at the same place where she forged many of her glossy credentials.
She went by Kristin Scharphorn back then, before she married. She also went by all-star, player of the year and record-setter.
“There’s not one magic answer. A lot of pieces to the puzzle fell in place,” Armstrong said of her scholastic success as a goalkeeper. “I had coaches who instilled confidence that enabled me to excel and stay calm in high-pressure situations. I had a great team. We helped each other out and uplifted each other.”
Armstrong joined the Niskayuna varsity as an eighth-grader in 1994, a year after the team secured the state Class B championship. In Armstrong’s five-year stay, Niskayuna captured three more New York Class A titles.
“I walked into a strong team,” Armstrong said. “The first goal was always sectionals. Do that, and put your eyes on states. The program had that mentality. The program was so strong. It was a special time.”
And Armstrong was indeed a special player.
“Looking back, those were special groups of kids, and no doubt, Kristin was a big, big piece,” said Niskayuna head coach Bryce Colby, who took over for Brian Speck in 1995. “She was the common thread. I believe she played every minute of every game.”
As an eighth-grader Armstrong helped Niskayuna achieve a No. 7 national ranking. Niskayuna shared the state title with Huntington that fall after the teams played to a 2-2 overtime tie.
“The 1994 team was loaded with talent, but she was the backbone,” Colby said. “I remember her making three great saves in the final. One of them was early in the game on a breakaway. Even as an eight-grader, at 13 years old, she was unflappable.”
“It was really good timing,” Armstrong said of joining the team at such a young age. “There was no one above me who was a goalie. I liked the game. I was motivated and had some talent, and Brian [Speck] saw my potential.”
Niskayuna won other state titles in 1995, and in 1998 when Armstrong was a senior, after losing in the Section II finals in 1996 and 1997.
“You can’t ask for anything more,” said Armstrong, a Burnt Hills resident who teaches chemistry at Bethlehem Middle School. “Not many girls who are seniors get to win their last game.”
Niskayuna beat Greece Athena 2-0 in the 1998 state final when Armstrong notched her 74th career shutout, which still stands as the No. 2 mark in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association record book.
“Her technique was outstanding, and she was so solid in her decision-making,” Colby said. “She didn’t get stuck out of position on a corner kick. She knew when to leave the goal line and when to stay. She knew when to catch the ball and when to punch the ball. She didn’t make mistakes.”
Niskayuna put together a 95-8-10 record with Armstrong starting. In her 113 games, her goals against average was 0.47.
“All of the stats, I didn’t do that by myself,” Armstrong said. “I had good defenders [including her twin sister Corrie]. Good coaching.”
Armstrong was selected the Section II Player of the Year following her senior season and was tabbed an All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. She went on to play four seasons at Duquesne University, and started and served as a team captain her junior and senior seasons.
She will be among 16 inductees into the Hall of Fame, which is backed by the New York State Sportswriters and Coaches Organization for Girls Sports. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Niskayuna High School begins Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
“When Perry [Novak, NYSSCOGS president] called, I was blown away,” said Armstrong, a married mother of two young children. “The whole weekend is more than I could ask for. I am so honored and so grateful. All of the things you’d expect people to say, but I really mean it.”
Coinciding with Hall of Fame festivities is the third annual New York State High School Girls Soccer Hall of Fame Tournament. That tournament started Thursday and goes through Sunday, with games being played at a variety of Capital Region locations.