NISKAYUNA — Even with the lower half of their faces covered in protective masks, smiles were evident from the Niskayuna boys’ soccer team Saturday morning as it defeated visiting Troy 8-0 in the Suburban Council opener for both teams.
“The fact that we’re playing right now is extraordinary. I feel for the schools who are not able to have this opportunity,” Niskayuna head coach Terrance Sloan said. “We are thankful every day. We talk about that every day, how lucky we are and we want to keep this train going as long as we can.”
The Suburban Council and Patroon Conference are the only two leagues in Section II that chose to play soccer this fall. Six other leagues postponed the sport until the newly designated “Fall II” begins March 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballston Spa and Bethlehem were two Suburban Council teams that also made the decision to play soccer in “Fall II.”
The Suburban Council requires players to wear face coverings on the sidelines and on the pitch during practice and play to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
That didn’t prevent the Silver Warriors (1-0 league) from scoring four goals in both halves, including a pair from juniors Matt Stiles and Mike Puccioni.
“We all bought special sports masks to be able to have more circulation,” Puccioni said. “It was a lot to get used to at first, but I don’t think it’s going to be too big of a problem this year.
“We’re pretty used to it, we went out and played really hard today, did really well.”
The current Niskayuna roster saw its spring peers lose their contests as the pandemic broke out in March. This fall was not guaranteed until mid-September by a vote of the Suburban Council athletic directors and school superintendents.
“I wanted [a soccer season] in the fall just because the senior class has done so much for the program,” Stiles said. “Just for them to be able to play in the fall and have something normal is what really counted for me.”
Fall practices began Sept. 21, and teams had two weeks of practices without the luxury of scrimmages or non-league contests before Saturday’s start.
“They moved the ball really well today,” Sloan said. “I know Troy was down a few players, but we really did a good job.
“The first half was a little bit dicey. The field was soaking wet. Now that the dew has burned off, you could see the ball started to do the things we wanted it to do.”
The Silver Warriors adjusted to their respective masks at full-speed play and sent a message to the rest of the Suburban Council with its eight-goal tally.
“I think it’s an intimidation factor,” Puccioni said. “A good win like this is great to motivate the team and it puts fear in the other teams.”
Halftime score: Niskayuna led 4-0. Troy scoring: None. Niskayuna scoring: M. Stiles 2-0, Puccioni 2-0, A. Stiles 1-1, Richards 1-1, McCory 1-0, Savona 1-0. Klenk 0-1, Raj 0-1, Torres 0-1, Gutillo 0-1. Goalies: Troy, Ryan 6 saves. Niskayuna, Ndiaye 3 saves.
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