ROTTERDAM — One of the goals Schalmont set for itself before Tuesday’s Colonial Council girls’ game against Voorheesville on was straightforward: score three goals by halftime and allow none.
The Sabres did, in fact, reach the break with a 3-0 edge, and checking that box was crucial to their eventual 4-2 triumph over the Blackbirds at Schalmont High School.
“We needed that early lead,” said sophomore Simone Cassano, who scored two of those first-half tallies. “We knew that if we got those goals in, we could shut them down. We knew that if we could catch them off guard, we could come out with a win.”
Junior Gabriela Amoroso scored the opening goal for the Sabres.
Schalmont (4-0), the reigning Section II Class B champion, and Voorheesville are expected to be among the teams battling for the coveted four spots in the league playoffs at the end of the “Fall II” 10-game season. Looking toward that end-of-season tournament, Sabres head coach Ryan Fries recognized how games like Tuesday’s impact his team’s potential place in that competition.
“We have our teams that we know we need to beat, and [Voorheesville] is one of them,” Fries said. “We knew they were going to bring it.”
The Sabres’ first-half offense was created early and often off pressure along the right sideline and ensuing corner kicks swung in by senior captain Teghan Older. Schalmont had seven of its eight corner kicks in the first half, compared to Voorheesville, which only managed three, all in the second half.
Older’s combination play with juniors Payton Graber and Gianna Viscusi, as well as senior Ashley Cirilla, kept the ball moving toward the Blackbirds’ net and afforded the Sabres numerous set pieces.
“We’re trying to get into space, so we can run into it,” Older said. “We know we’re a fast team. We know we can get onto it. That’s all we were really just trying to do, trying to get down the line and up and in.”
As crucial as Schalmont’s speed was throughout the contest, its ability to implement a compact, coordinated press defensively was the difference as the game progressed.
Viscusi, Cirilla and senior Jules Monlea kept a high line from the start to limit the space Voorheesville had to move the ball offensively when it did gain possession and forced passes wide, away from its central midfielders — its strongest unit.
“I told them today, you have five seconds if you lost the ball to get it back,” Fries said. “If you lose it, you’re getting back. That’s one of my pet peeves. If you lose the ball, you fight to get it back. You don’t just sit there and watch and let your other teammate go get it.”
Sabres goalkeeper Kierstin Lynch made seven saves in the match, including two down the stretch to stifle spurts of Voorheesville momentum. But her leadership from the back was also felt in her sound decision making when coming out to grab loose balls and yelling out directions as well as encouragement.
“She knows that she’s got to be vocal. We want her to be,” Fries said. “She sees everything from a different viewpoint than the defense, midfield, and she’s our eleventh player. She loves to be encouraging.”
The Blackbirds scored early in the second half after a poor Sabres clearance led to a Blackbirds’ corner kick by Caroline Dolin, and she scored on it.
Viscusi slotted in Schalmont’s fourth goal after an impressive individual effort with 17 minutes to play to push the lead back to three.
Megan Romansky powered a free kick past Lynch less than four minutes later to make it 4-2.
Halftime score: Schalmont led 3-0. Voorheesville scoring: Romansky 1-0, Dolin 1-0. Schalmont scoring: Amoroso 1-0, Cassano 2-1, Older 0-1, Viscusi 1-0. Goalies: Voorheesville, Shufelt, 4 saves. Schalmont, Lynch, 7 saves.