SCHENECTADY — Niskayuna is going to the semifinals of the Suburban Council girls’ soccer tournament, and a perfect give-and-go helped the Silver Warriors get there.
Kaleigh West finished off the play with a goal from about 20 yards out early in the second half, and Niskayuna held off Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s determined bid in a 1-0 quarterfinal win Tuesday on the Schenectady High School turf.
“Kaleigh has come a long way in how she is using the midfielders to get in space,” Niskayuna coach Bryce Colby said. “That’s what happens.”
It was a sophomore-to-sophomore connection that created the game’s most significant play, with West dashing down the middle of the field and feeding Carli Maltbie with a right-to-left pass. As West continued forward, Maltbie passed the ball back. West took in the ball and her drive four minutes into the second half sailed past Spartans’ goalkeeper Hannah Ashcraft.
“We are a pretty good combination working together,” West, a forward, said of Maltbie, a midfielder. “We’ve had a couple of those so far this season. I saw the through ball coming and I ran to it.”
West also accounted for the goal when Niskayuna (No. 3 seed, 8-3-1) edged Burnt Hills (No. 6, 5-6-1) back on Oct. 27 in another 1-0 decision. Her second tally against the Spartans, and plenty of defense afterward, propelled the Silver Warriors to face Shaker (No. 2, 11-0-1) in a Thursday semifinal.
“We had to work for this game,” said Niskayuna senior Lexie Thompson, who anchored her teams’ defensive group. “It was just like the last game. They [Burnt Hills] didn’t give up.”
Burnt Hills picked up its pace as the game progressed in the second half, and Niskayuna’s defensive stand included a save by Emma Anderson on a low liner that made it through traffic.
“That was something we tried to focus on, being mentally focused and having that want to win,” Burnt Hills coach Marisah Boucher said. “They definitely made their community and their school proud tonight. They gave it their all.”
Both teams had several quality scoring opportunities in the first half, with one Burnt Hills drive nailing the middle of the crossbar.
“It was back and forth,” Boucher said of the opening 40 minutes of play. “We could have been down 2-0. We could have been up 2-0.”
Ashcraft finished with six saves.
“She had three really good saves in the first half,” Colby said of the Spartans co-captain. “She was tough.”
Anderson had seven saves in the shutout.
“It’s awesome to win this game and move on,” Thompson said. “We lost in the sectional final last year. It would be awesome to get back there.”
That will take a win at Shaker, the place where Niskayuna gave up a goal early in each half and dropped a 2-0 decision back on Oct. 17.
“Shaker is a great team,” West said. “We have to play our best.”
Niskayuna is 6-1-1 since its loss to Shaker. Shaker defeated Saratoga Springs Tuesday 6-1 in its quarterfinal game.
“I believe it was the Shaker game that got us going,” Colby said. “We strung a lot of good games together. From that time we’ve gotten better and better and better.”
Halftime: Tied 0-0. Burnt Hills scoring: None. Niskayuna scoring: West 1-0, Maltbie 0-1. Goalies: Burnt Hills, Ashcraft, 6 saves. Niskayuna, Anderson, 7 saves.