NISKAYUNA — After Niskayuna’s one-goal loss to Bethlehem in the Section II Class AA boys’ soccer quarterfinals last fall, Silver Warriors coach Terrence Sloan was envisioning a much deeper playoff run in the 2020 season.
That will have to wait until next year.
“That’s the unfortunate thing, no sectionals, but we can still play for a championship,” Sloan said Friday before a practice session with his varsity team. “You’ve got to have that carrot to dangle. If not, it’s really hard.”
Niskayuna will be among the teams looking for the best record in an abbreviated Suburban Council campaign, and at same time, it will be building for the future which Sloan believes could be quite fruitful.
“We’re going to treat this season as if it were the preseason for next season’s state title run,” Sloan said. “I know that’s a big goal, but I don’t want to sell the kids short. We’ll lose six kids, but we’ll have some class athletes coming back for their senior year next year.”
The current senior class has plenty of talent, too, including Colgate-bound center back Toby Goldner, who was also thinking about a deep postseason run this year before it got wiped away first at the state level and then at the Section II level due to COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s different, but it still means something,” Goldner said of the 12 league games Niskayuna is slated to play.
Ballston Spa and Bethlehem will not be competing in boys’ soccer this fall, leaving the Suburban Council with 13 teams, including 2019 state Class AA semifinalist Shenendehowa. Every team will play every other team once in the balanced schedule.
“It definitely gives us something to play for, but it’s not easy to get,” Niskayuna junior forward/midfielder Matthew Stiles said. “It’s a very competitive league.”
“I could see seven teams competing [for the top spot],” Sloan said.
The league begins play Oct. 3, and Niskayuna has a home matchup with Troy. Games with Guilderland and Averill Park will follow.
“With the fact that there’s no sectionals, every league game counts. We’ve got to make every touch count. We’ve got to make every minute count,” Sloan said. “We can’t say, ‘Let’s just get in the sectionals and then we’ll peak.’ Getting them to jell early in the season is important.”
“We haven’t played together in close to a year,” said Stiles, who is joined on the team by his twin brother, Andrew. “We have to work hard in practice so we’re ready for the first couple of games.”
Niskayuna’ was denied a significant prize late in the 2018 season when it reached the Section II Class AA title game and lost by a goal to CBA.
“One game isn’t going to decide it all,” said Goldner, one of Niskayuna’s holdovers from that 2018 edition. “Every game is going to be a final. There are a bunch of great rivalries in this league, and every game is going to be tough.”
Sloan said he’s anxious to see how his veteran team responds.
“This is my fourth year here, and this is arguably the best team I’ve had,” Sloan said. “Most of the guys here played on last year’s team. We have good senior leadership and some top-notch juniors. It’s a good mix.”
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.