If this was a normal year, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey team wouldn’t get a chance to play a season-ending, rubber-match game with rival Shenendehowa, and Spartans head coach Kelly Vrooman wouldn’t get the opportunity match up one last time with the Plainsmen’s retiring hall of fame coach from the league they share with a championship on the line.
Those things, though, will happen when the Spartans meet up with Shenendehowa 4:15 p.m. Friday at Steuerwald Stadium in the championship game of the Suburban Council tournament created earlier this year in response to Section II and state playoffs being called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In each of the last 10 seasons, Burnt Hills (11-2) played its last Section II game against an opponent from the Foothills Council, and the Spartans won the last eight of those Class B championship contests. While the chance to continue that streak was paused for a year because of COVID-19 restrictions, other opportunities have developed.
“It’s important for us that we’re playing the last game of the year,” Vrooman said
The last game will serve as the third between the Suburban Council’s top squads, with the Spartans prevailing in an overtime shootout 1-0 on Oct. 19 and head coach Jeanne Frevola’s Plainsmen notching a 2-1 win nine days later.
“Shenendehowa is a great program,” Vrooman had said after her team’s October win. “They’re like a layer of teeth. One goes, and another one pops in. They’re always good.”
Burnt Hills beat Saratoga Springs 1-0 in a sudden victory shootout in the semifinal round and Shenendehowa downed Guilderland 5-1.
“If we have the right mindset, show up and execute, I think we have a good shot,” Burnt Hills senior goalkeeper Senja Matson said. “We’d like to win that last game.”
Shenendehowa (12-1) played for the Section II Class A flag in each of the last 10 years, and won five times. Its 2013 and 2016 editions captured state championships. The Plainsmen will be looking for one more title for Frevola, who has been the school’s varsity coach since 1999 and surpassed the 300-win mark earlier this fall.
“After our last game with them I said to her, ‘Hope to see you again,’ and it’s going to happen. That will be nice,” Vrooman said. “Field hockey is a close community and we’ve crossed paths so many times. She is a great person and has been a great mentor to me.”