NISKAYUNA — Shaker lacrosse coach Shawn Hennessey envisioned his team beating Niskayuna Friday, just not the way it actually did.
The Blue Bison scored four unanswered goals in the first half, countered everything the Silver Warriors threw at them in the third quarter and held on for a stunning 9-7 Section II Class A semifinal win.
“That’s not the picture I had on my mind coming here,” Hennessey said of the first half. “My thought was Niskayuna likes to come out fast, and we’re going to have to handle their barrage and work our way back in it.”
Top-seeded Niskayuna was left playing catchup after Zach Mein’s goal 2:13 in, and was never able to pull it off against fourth-seeded Shaker in what was its first setback against a Section II team since the 2016 season.
The loss also denied Niskayuna (14-1) an opportunity to play in an area championship game for the first time since the 2002 season.
“It all started with the beginning of the game,” Shaker junior goalkeeper Ryan Mazzariello said. “We came out hot and built off it.”
Owen Wilson and Michael LaCouture scored three goals apiece for Shaker (9-5), and Mazzariello made 10 saves behind his smart and active defensive cast. Seven of those stops came in the first half when Shaker was setting the game’s tone.
“This is the first time we’ve beaten Niskayuna since I’ve been here,” said Hennessey, who took over the Shaker varsity team in 2007. “Players win games. End of story. We had some players today.”
Wilson also scored in the first quarter, and Matt Calicchia and LaCouture delivered in the second. The closest Niskayuna got afterward was 9-7 with 33 seconds left in the contest when Leo O’Brien capped a desperate three-goal run.
“They fought until the end,” Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang said. “We could have done a lot of things better, but we didn’t give up.”
Niskayuna had several shots go just wide and two drives hit the pipe.
“It was a combination of a really good goalie, and shooters not putting the ball in the net,” Vorgang said.
Davey Carroll pulled Niskayuna within 4-1 early in the third quarter, Wilson countered for Shaker and Lucas Klokiw got another one for the Silver Warriors. The Blue Bison then put together a key 3-0 run that included two more goals by LaCouture and another by the coach’s son, Eric Hennessey.
“Great team win,” Mazzariello said. “Everyone was focused the whole game. All week it was ‘We believe.’
“I cannot say enough good things about the way the kids were locked in,” Shawn Hennessey said.
Niskayuna had beaten Shaker 10-4 as part of its perfect run through the Suburban Council, and was coming off a 21-3 quarterfinal victory over eighth-seeded Colonie.
“I thought we had a couple of good practices coming in,” said Vorgang, who has guided his teams to 17 Section II titles since the program started varsity play in 1994. “We didn’t get the looks I wanted to get out of it.”
Greyson Vorgang, the coach’s son, had two goals and an assist, while Brock Behrman, the son of Union College football coach Jeff Behrman, had a goal and three assists. Vorgang and Behrman both scored in
Niskayuna’s late run.
“I practice with those guys, and Niskayuna is a great team,” said Mazzariello, who is a teammate of Vorgang and Behrman on the Albany Power club team. “I just told them that great things are coming for them.”
Shaker is hoping for another great performance when it meets second-seeded Guilderland in Tuesday’s 4 p.m. championship game at Amsterdam. Guilderland beat sixth-seeded Bethlehem 12-7 in Friday’s other semifinal.
Shaker beat Shenendehowa 9-5 in its last title-game appearance in 2017, and Guilderland beat Shaker 8-4 in its last title-game appearance in 2009.
“It feels great, but this isn’t the main one,” Mazzariello said.
Guilderland beat Shaker 8-7 in double overtime when the teams met in May. On the last day of April, Guilderland and Shaker played for the Class AA football championship and the Dutchmen prevailed 22-21.
Niskayuna’s last loss inside Section II came against Shenendehowa 15-14 in the 2016 Section II Class A title game.
Shaker scoring: Mein 1-1, Wilson 3-0, Hennessey 1-2, Calicchia 1-0, LaCouture 3-0, Brant 0-1. Niskayuna scoring: D. Carroll 1-0, Behrman 1-3, Klokiw 1-1, O’Brien 1-1, Vorgang 2-2, Williams 1-0. Goalies: Shaker, Mazzariello, 10 saves. Niskayuna, T. Carroll, 15 saves.