CBA starts strong, beats Niskayuna
ALBANY — It’s a sign of the times that the strangest sight wasn’t CBA piling up four goals in one game against a Niskayuna team that had given up a total of just seven in its previous 13 games.
No, stranger still was a cellphone floating above CBA’s postgame huddle as the Brothers listened to a disembodied voice.
The words of encouragement came from head coach Steve Freeman, who has now missed two games while under a COVID-19-related quarantine, said assistant coach Phil Farinacci, who held up the phone in the middle of the huddle.
Freeman watched the game on livestream and liked what he saw, as the Brothers pounced on the Silver Warriors early and often on the way to a 4-2 victory in the semifinals of the Suburban Council boys’ soccer tournament. CBA will play Shenendehowa for the championship at Shen at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
On a sunny but windy day, CBA (11-2) led 3-0 at halftime with three goals in the first 18:22 of the game, and quickly answered when Niskayuna (9-3-2) got on the scoreboard in the second half.
Niskayuna was riding back-to-back shutouts and gave up just one goal in the Brothers’ 1-0 win on Oct. 22.
“I don’t think they played bad, I don’t think they defended bad, we just worked for all our goals,” CBA senior Sumahri Stewart said.
“High pressure, and we handled the ball well,” Farinacci said. “We took opportunities and didn’t miss any chances there. We came out with high intensity, and that was important. We told them before the game to come out fast.
“A lot of uncharacteristic play, to be honest with you,” Niskayuna head coach Terrence Sloan said. “I mean, we had only given up seven goals all year, so to give up four in one match was very disheartening. We just weren’t ourselves.”
CBA had the wind in its faces in the first half, but was up 2-0 before the game was nine minutes old.
Senior Jordan Proulx got a penalty kick past Papa Ndiaye two minutes in.
“I think the penalty kick in the first two minutes of the game set the tone,” Sloan said. “It kind of rattled us. We were ready to play, but I don’t think we were expecting to give up the PK in the first two minutes.
“The kid just drew the touchline, we had a player out of position, we clipped his leg from behind and the rest is history. To go down 1-0 at that point is not demoralizing, but it definitely takes a little wind out of their sails.”
Stewart made it 2-0 when he took advantage of a turnover to get behind the defense and slip the ball past Ndiaye on the ground and inside the left post.
There was still 21:38 on the clock in the first half when the Brothers went up 3-0, as Jack Ryan got past his defender on right wing and launched a perfect cross to Ben Baker for a header.
“They played it back to their center back, and he took a touch, it deflected off a leg and I just put it past the kid to my left,” Stewart said of the second goal.
“The penalty shot took a lot of pressure off us, because we had the lead and could start playing our own game.”
Niskayuna got one back on an own goal that dribbled inside the post.
It took five goals, but somebody finally scored with the wind at his back, as CBA regained a three-goal lead on a long, high-arcing bomb off the foot of Ben Bern just over three minutes after Niskayuna’s goal.
The ball made its descent and slipped under the crossbar and off Ndiaye’s fingertips in the upper right corner of the net.
Michael Puccioni’s header for Niskayuna with 10:21 left cut it to 4-2, but the hard-pressing Silver Warriors’ shots the rest of the way mostly sailed over the crossbar.
Stewart said it was fitting, in a way, that Freeman’s congratulatory post-game speech came by phone.
“It’s very symbolic,” he said with a laugh. “It’s strange, but we know he’s still watching through the livestream and still providing us with information that’ll help us win.
“He was just really proud of us that we could play and win under these circumstances, without him and without a couple of our guys. It’s a big loss [without Freeman], but I think we’re built to play.”
“We are very fortunate to have gotten this whole entire season in,” Sloan said. “Can’t be any prouder of the kids for the sacrifices they made along the way. Playing with the masks is not ideal.
“And they persevered through it, and it was, honestly, one of the best seasons we’ve had since I’ve been here. Going 9-3-2 is not a bad season, it’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get a championship.”