SARATOGA SPRINGS — With a superb defensive effort and a dive that deserved a 10, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake won its season-starting field hockey game Friday night on the new turf field at Saratoga High school.
Lianna Sullivan went airborne to score the only goal in the second quarter, and the Spartans bottled up the Blue Streaks until the last few minutes in a 1-0 Suburban Council victory.
“It came down to experience versus inexperience,” Saratoga coach Jo-Anne Hostig said. “I’m watching the game and thinking, ‘Who did they graduate?’ They have all their girls back. They’ve got Molly [Pochobradsky] back, they’ve got Paige [Thowe] back …”
Sullivan and Isabel Adams are also among the veteran cast that has returned to the Burnt Hills’ lineup, and they combined for the only score the stingy Spartans would need.
“We did a really good job on defense,” said Sullivan, a senior forward. “We were like a brick wall. We didn’t let them get the ball to our goalie [Katherine Jensen]. We’re happy with that.”
Burnt Hills was fabulous on its defensive recovery, with a Spartan or several of them consistently closing in when a Blue Streak got past one of their teammates.
“They do that well,” Hostig said. “They have a defense that knows how to swarm.”
Saratoga never had the ball in the offensive circle long enough to draw a foul and gain a penalty corner, while Burnt Hills collected six of them. Saratoga’s only shot came late in the contest.
“Our defense was great,” Burnt Hills coach Kelly Vrooman said. “Our passing was phenomenal. I liked our transition. What we need to work on is our fitness.”
Player stamina is a Burnt Hills field hockey trademark, and Vrooman’s teams used that as another weapon in winning Section II Class B championships in each of the last eight seasons.
“We didn’t have the preseason we normally do, and we’re not as fit as we normally are,” Vrooman said. “In each quarter, it went down a little more. In the fourth quarter, we were holding on by our teeth.”
Saratoga possessed the ball more often in the fourth quarter and drove it deep several times, but without the desired result.
“In the fourth quarter, we were better,” Hostig said. “We couldn’t do the composure part.”
Adams set up the Burnt Hills goal with a right-to-left pass into a maze of players, including Sullivan, who dove for the ball and knocked it past Saratoga netminder Emma Piccirillo with 6:40 left in the second quarter.
“I saw her [Adams] pass it to me, and I knew I couldn’t let the ball get past me,” Sullivan said. “I dove for it and hit it in.”
Saratoga fell to 1-1, having beaten 2019 Section II Class A champion Guilderland last weekend 1-0 on an overtime goal by Aubrey Ide.
“We were really worried about this game because the other teams had played games,” Sullivan said. “We came out strong.”
Burnt Hills gained all six of its penalty corners in the first half.
Burnt Hills 0 1 0 0 – 1
Saratoga 0 0 0 0 – 0
Burnt Hills scoring: Sullivan 1-0, Adams 0-1. Saratoga scoring: None. Goaltenders: Burnt Hills, Jensen, 0 saves. Saratoga, Piccirillo, 6 saves.
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.