CLIFTON PARK – As each minute ticked off the game clock during the Suburban Council girls’ soccer tournament quarterfinal between No. 1 Shenendehowa and No. 8 Colonie Tuesday night, the better the Garnet Raiders liked their chances as the road underdog.
Deep into the second half, Colonie frustrated the Plainsmen, packing the defensive third and thwarting a seemingly endless array of shot attempts.
Then, Shenendehowa broke through to claim its 1-0 victory.
With 9:58 left in regulation, Plainsmen midfielder Maia LaVigne lifted the ball gently in the goal box, utilizing teammate Georgia Greene – who was racing across the mouth of the goal – as a decoy, and saw the ball slip into the right side of the net for the precious, game-winning goal.
“It was super stressful, but we were getting shots – but we just couldn’t get them in the back of the net,” LaVigne said. “I feel like because there were so many people back there, it was hard to get it through all of them.”
LaVigne’s goal was enough to propel Shenendehowa into Thursday’s semifinal matchup against Guilderland, which advanced past Columbia on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 tie.
In its quarterfinal against Colonie (No. 8, 4-6-2), Shenendehowa (No. 1, 11-0-1) wanted to start fast before using its depth to secure a victory. The Garnet Raiders, though, made sure that plan didn’t come to fruition for the Plainsmen, as the defense for Colonie head coach Ryan Edson – a former Shenendehowa boys’ soccer standout – made it difficult for Shenendehowa to create quality chances.
“It was frustrating for us on the sidelines, frustrating for the kids, I’m sure – and it was effective,” Shenendehowa girls’ soccer head coach Holli Nirsberger said of Colonie’s approach.
Shenendehowa was the aggressor throughout the contest, during which Colonie goalies Emma York and Hailey Blake combined to make nine saves.
As the end of regulation neared, though, the Plainsmen stayed confident.
“We were doing better in the second half,” LaVigne said. “Our intensity was higher because the clock was working against us, so we had to pick it up a little bit.”
While the traditional Section II playoffs were canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday’s second half featured the excitement and feel of a normal playoff game, which was the aim of the Suburban Council in creating its own league tournament for the year.
“It feels the same as last year – it’s just a COVID version,” LaVigne said.
And with a late goal, the Plainsmen found a way to survive and advance to keep their season alive. Shenendehowa, though, knows it needs to be better in the semifinals.
“I felt like we were just a hair off in all aspects in our game tonight,” Nirsberger said. “I’m thankful for the win.”
Halftime score: Tied 0-0. Colonie scoring: None. Shenendehowa scoring: LaVigne 1-0. Goalies: Colonie, York, 8 saves; Blake, 1 save. Shenendehowa, Franklin, 1 save.