NISKAYUNA — The concern, if there was one, for head coach Terrence Sloan was whether his Niskayuna team might find itself guilty of looking past Tuesday’s Suburban Council boys’ soccer tournament quarterfinal against visiting Shaker.
After all, a potential matchup with CBA loomed in Thursday’s semifinals, and Niskayuna has made no secret that it wants another shot against the Brothers, who handed the Silver Warriors their only loss of the 2020 season.
“I know the boys are chomping at the bit to get to that game on Thursday with them,” Sloan said.
Well, second-seeded CBA did its part with a 3-1 win against Albany.
And Niskayuna clinched the rematch it covets with a focused and fierce effort on its home field. Attention to detail was there from Tuesday’s start, and Niskayuna never lacked control in a 2-0 win that saw the defensive-minded team record its seventh shutout in 13 games.
“Our concentration has been great all season,” Niskayuna junior Papa Ndiaye said after making five saves in goal.
That focus showed early, as Niskayuna (No. 3, 9-1-3) created one offensive chance after another against Shaker (No. 6, 6-7-0) in the opening minutes. Before long, in the game’s 12th minute, Niskayuna cashed in when senior Jordan Angrist delivered a pass to an open Matt Stiles, and the junior booted the ball past Shaker junior goalie Malcolm Robinson.
“That’s something you’re waiting for, hoping for, before the game,” Stiles said. “You want that opportunity to put the ball in the goal and give your team that lead.”
After receiving the pass, Stiles waited a few seconds before shooting. The junior said he “remembered the play before when [Robinson] made a great save,” and wanted to hesitate to try to throw off the Shaker goalie.
“And, then, I could just pass it in,” said Stiles, whose goal came during a span of the game in which a brief flurry of snowflakes visited the field.
Niskayuna held onto its 1-0 lead into halftime, and kept attacking after intermission as the quick snow shower gave way to sunshine. In the 47th minute, junior Mike Puccioni took a feed from Angrist and secured a 2-0 lead for Niskayuna, and Sloan’s club relied on its defense from there to hold off a Shaker squad that kept fighting until the end.
Robinson made five saves for Shaker, which fell 2-0 for the second time in as many tries against Niskayuna this season.
Since its loss against CBA, Niskayuna has put together a 5-0-3 stretch. That defeat, though, sticks with Niskayuna.
“We definitely had chances in that game against CBA,” Sloan said of his team’s 1-0 loss back on Oct. 22. “We just didn’t capitalize.”
Stiles said Niskayuna wants to make sure it leaves Thursday’s game with no regrets.
“We don’t want to be outworked,” Stiles said. “We need to make sure we’re working as hard as we can, and working harder than them.”
Halftime score: Niskayuna led 1-0. Shaker scoring: None. Niskayuna scoring: M. Stiles 1-0, Puccioni 1-0, Angrist 0-2. Goalies: Shaker, Robinson, 5 saves. Niskayuna, Ndiaye, 5 saves.