SCHENECTADY — After scoring three second-half goals to get past Schenectady Tuesday in the rain, the Saratoga Springs boys’ soccer team huddled briefly with its coaching staff, and then gave the Patriots a lengthy round of applause.
The gesture of sportsmanship meant something to second-year Schenectady coach Andrew Rojas.
“We’re definitely gaining respect in the [Suburban] Council,” Rojas said. “Teams can’t take us lightly.”
Schenectady again proved to be a tough out, with the Blue Streaks getting a goal from Jack Donnelly with about 25 minutes left, and tacking on two more in the closing minutes in a 3-0 Suburban Council win at Larry Mulvaney Field.
“We were in it,” Rojas said. “That’s been the story of my career here. The kids are always fighting.”
Schenectady (1-4-0) is playing this fall with a lot of kids who had never competed at the varsity level before, yet hung in with a Saratoga Springs team led by 16 seniors, including the speedy Donnelly up front and goalkeeper Tyler Munter in the back.
“We were looking at a Saratoga team that had a solid defense and kids who can score,” Rojas said.
It took some time before the Blue Streaks were able to do that, though.
“We had a few good chances in the first half,” Saratoga Springs coach Jeff Geller said. “We had difficulty breaking them down. Once we got that one, things opened up.”
Donnelly displayed his track speed when he took in a through pass from Garrett Farr, pulled away from two defenders, and scored from 20 yards away. Donnelly almost scored again moments later when he handled another through pass from Anthony Borelli and hit the right post from nearly the same spot.
“It was perfectly timed. There was a big gap and he [Farr] slid in right to me,” said Donnelly, an 800-meter specialist with the Blue Streaks’ track team. “I was waiting for the opportunity because I knew I had the speed.”
Evan Hallett turned a short pass from Donnelly into a goal from 30 yards away as time wound down, tucking the ball just under the crossbar, and Stefanos Tsitos scored from close range soon after on an assist by Tim Boyer.
“We work well when we play simple and play as a team,” Donnelly said.
While the first half was back and forth, Saratoga Springs (3-1-1) controlled the ball more often in the second half.
“Not everyone came out for the team,” Rojas said. “I had a ninth-grader and three 10th-graders on the field. I’m teaching on the fly.”
Schenectady senior Iddrisu Harua nearly gave his team a first-half lead when he unleashed a drive from 40 yards out, and the ball nailed the high right post.
Harua had scored both goals when Schenectady beat Troy 2-0 for its lone win a week ago.
“He’s something special. He sees the game a different way,” Rojas said. “There are some [college] coaches looking at him.”
Schenectady dropped to 0-6 against Saratoga Springs since joining the Suburban Council in 2015, which includes last season’s 3-2 decision for the Blue Streaks.
Halftime: 0-0. Saratoga scoring: Donnelly 1-1, Hallet 1-0, Tsitos 1-0, Boyer 0-1. Schenectady scoring: None. Goalkeepers: Saratoga, Munter, 3 saves. Schenectady, Shohatee, 8 saves.