Disappointed but grateful: BH-BL can’t defend field hockey title, but players happy to be playing at all

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey's Paige Thowe handles the ball during practice on Thursday. Photo by Erica Miller/Staff Photographer

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey's Paige Thowe handles the ball during practice on Thursday. Photo by Erica Miller/Staff Photographer

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, High School Sports, Sports

BURNT HILLS — The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake varsity field hockey team has a long to-do list for this shortened fall season.

It includes among other things building team chemistry, the passing down of team traditions and game knowledge from veterans to the younger players, and getting better each and every week.

The Spartans have for years made good on that last item, and a Section II-record eight straight Class B championships have been the result.

A ninth straight area flag isn’t on the current agenda, though, with only Suburban Council play scheduled.

“It’s definitely a pretty big blow not to be able to defend a thing like that,” Burnt Hills senior back Erin McClernan said of the championship streak that was extended in 2019 with a 2-0 win over Queensbury. “To end our career with another title would have been nice.”

With just about everybody back from last year’s 16-win title team, Burnt Hills would have been favored to repeat, but its opportunity was eliminated earlier this month when Section II gave the go-ahead for “low” and “moderate” risk sports to be played this fall and at the same time announced that it would not be sponsoring postseason competition for a variety of reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the beginning, we were a little shocked not to have sectionals,” Burnt Hills coach Kelly Vrooman said, before hesitating and then adding: “We consider ourselves fortunate to be playing.”

Senior midfielder Paige Thowe echoed that sentiment.

“Going into every season, we look to achieve that goal, and this year, we can’t achieve that,” Thowe said. “Even so, I feel very grateful that I can be with my teammates again.”

The Suburban Council is the only league in Section II that is conducting field hockey this fall, and it will be without Bethlehem, which has opted to compete in the Fall II season that begins March 1.

“At least we get to have some part of a season,” McClernan said.

Vrooman and her players said without a Section II title to strive for, one of their main objectives now is to post the best record in the Suburban Council again. Last year Burnt Hills and Shenendehowa both went 11-3 in the league and shared that achievement.

“We definitely want to be the best we can and try to win as many games as we can, if not all of them,” senior midfielder Hanna Pochobradsky said. “We want to win the Suburban Council.”

They’ll go after it with a team led by eight seniors, including goalkeeper Senja Matson, who was among the standouts in last year’s Section II title-game win with an eight-save performance.

“We’re still going to push ourselves like we normally would and try to achieve our goals,” Thowe said.

McClernan said playing together and backing each other will be key.

“Everyone on the team has a pretty good skill set,” McClernan said. “A big thing will be building chemistry and bonding.”

“I think we’re going to progress and mesh well,” Pochobradsky said.

Burnt Hills and the other six Suburban Council teams will play a 12-game schedule. Burnt Hills, which is the league’s only Class B team, will host Shenendehowa in its opener on Oct. 5.

“We set goals every year,” Vrooman said. “They will be different from the past.”

Vrooman said some kind of a league tournament after the regular season is in the discussion stage.

Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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