COLONIE — The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey team has gotten just what it expected in the second half of its tour through the Suburban Council, and that’s tougher games from improved foes.
Guilderland was the latest opponent to display its growth, like other traditional Section II powers Shenendehowa and Saratoga Springs had before, and the latest opponent that the Spartans found a way to defeat.
“We have to expect teams to be better,” Burnt Hill sophomore Maggie Lansley said after the Spartans edged the Dutchmen 1-0 Friday at Afrim’s Sports Park.
Burnt Hills had beaten Guilderland 6-1 in an earlier meeting in mid-September, and while the Spartans had a few more opportunities to score than the Dutchmen in Friday’s rematch, it was mostly a defensive slugfest between teams that later on will set their sights on Section II championships.
Lansley supplied the game’s only goal with just over four minutes left in the first quarter from close range, and for much of the remainder of the contest the Spartans and Dutchmen traded hits and stops between the 25s.
“We lost to them 6-1 the first time,” Guilderland coach Jen Sykes said of the reigning state Class B champion Spartans. “I think definitely going to Pennsylvania for the MAX Field Hockey tournament [in late September] and playing some great teams there helped with our ascent. We’re starting to really connect well. Seeing that competition was good for us.”
Burnt Hills beat Shenendehowa early in the season 7-0, while the rematch saw the Spartans prevail 1-0 in overtime. After beating Saratoga 4-1, the Spartans took the second game 3-0.
“I’ve told my girls we’ve got to play our best game every day,” Burnt Hills coach Kelly Vrooman said. “Every time we step on the field. At this point, it’s mental focus. We’re fit, and we know our plays. We have to have the right mindset.”
After losing to New Jersey teams Rancocas Valley (3-1) and Blair Academy (4-1) at the MAX Field Hockey event, Guilderland (8-3, 8-5) won four straight in the Suburban Council as a prelude to Friday’s contest with the unbeaten Spartans (11-0, 12-1).
“That tournament showed us how good we can be,” Guilderland goalkeeper Sofia Cannistraci said. “It showed that we can do a lot. It boosted our confidence.”
Vrooman was impressed with Cannistraci, a senior who made eight saves, including a stretched-out foot stop on a third-quarter drive by Burnt Hills scoring leader Caroline Kogut.
“She had some great saves,” Vrooman said. “She was really good. Their defense was really good.”
Burnt Hills got its goal at the tail end of its first penalty corner, with Cannistraci making a save before Lansley handled a right to left pass from Maddy Connelie and scored.
Guilderland successfully defended six penalty corners after that, with Dutchmen flyer Skyler VanWormer leading the effort.
“Lately, we’ve been a little more rushed and we have not been capitalizing on them,” Lansley, a midfielder, said of the penalty corners that have been a Burnt Hills strength. “We’ve got to be quicker in the circle and be smarter.”
Kogut had another opportunity to extend Burnt Hills’ lead in the fourth quarter when, on another penalty corner, the star junior whistled a shot just wide left of the cage. Kogut had scored the overtime goal on a penalty corner Tuesday when the Spartans posted that 1-0 win over Shenendehowa.
“I’m really proud of how we defended the limited opportunities we gave them,” Sykes said of Burnt Hills’ penalty corners.
Guilderland was awarded two corners, and Burnt Hills netminder Katherine Jensen made two saves.
Burnt Hills has two games with Niskayuna and another with Bethlehem to complete its league schedule before attempting to earn its 10th consecutive Section II Class B championship in a field that includes Foothills Council leader South Glens Falls. Burnt Hills already owns a 5-2 win against Bethlehem.
“We’ve got a lot to play for,” Vrooman said. “There’s the league, and we’re fighting for the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.”
Burnt Hills’ lone loss came against Moorestown of New Jersey (4-3 overtime) at the MAX Field Hockey National Invitational, while the Spartans also posted a win there against Ann Arbor Skyline of Michigan (3-2).
“I tell all of them when you work really hard, it works,” Vrooman said of the effort she is looking for as her Spartans near postseason competition. “We can’t give up working.”
Burnt Hills 1 0 0 0 — 1
Guilderland 0 0 0 0 — 0
Burnt Hills scoring: M. Lansley 1-0, Connelie 0-1. Guilderland scoring: None. Goalies: Burnt Hills, Jensen, 2 saves. Guilderland, Cannistraci, 8 saves.
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