SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Springs acted like every bit of the No. 1 seed it is on Monday, scoring early and often in a 5-1 win over eighth-seeded Niskayuna in a Section II Class AA boys’ soccer quarterfinal at Saratoga Springs High School.
The Blue Streaks (14-0-1), ranked third in the state Class AA poll, sent a message early, with their first shot going off the crossbar, which resulted in a corner kick that delivered their first goal.
Ryan Farr’s kick found Xavier Ruscio, who headed it just over the goal line 53 seconds into the game.
“It’s huge,” Farr said of the early score. “We know they’re going to have a lot of guys in the back against us because we’re going to have the ball a lot, so to get one in early maybe opens them up a little bit, maybe changes what they’re going to do. Once we get one, it’s easier to get more.”
Saratoga Springs got its second goal at 8:20 on a series of short, crisp passes that ended with Farr taking a pass from Aidan Rosettie and knocking it into the far side of the net.
“The longer you let teams stay in the game, the more they’re going to have a chance to stick one out and maybe pull one on you, but to get the goal early was definitely instrumental in us taking control of the game and putting the game away,” Saratoga Springs coach Jeff Geller said.
The score stayed 2-0 until halftime, but the Silver Warriors (5-10-1) were lucky it wasn’t more, as Saratoga Springs finished the half with three hit crossbars and forcing Niskayuna goalkeeper Eric Thurn to make seven saves, several of them impressive.
In the second half, Saratoga Springs really showed its full complement of players, and the results stayed the same. The Blue Streaks made it 3-0 at 45:10 on the Farr-to-Ruscio connection again, and increased it to 4-0 at 59:47 when Owen Eldridge perfectly headed Vincent Devito’s corner kick.
“We had a lot of kids at tryouts, a lot more than regular,” Farr said. “We have 25 kids on the team, and they can all play. Whoever you pass the ball to, you know they’re going to do something good with it, and you’ll get it back.”
“It’s just nice when you can make substitutions and feel like you’re not dropping in talent. That’s been one of our strengths this season,” Geller said.
Niskayuna scored at 68:50 when Sammy Murvane intercepted a clearing pass, squared up and fired it in. The Silver Warriors’ joy was short-lived, though, as Saratoga Springs’ Theo Paladini answered 31 seconds later.
The Blue Streaks play fourth-seeded Guilderland, a 3-2 winner over Bethlehem, in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mechanicville.
Farr believes this year’s team has a better set of intangibles than previous teams.
“Last year we had a lot of talent, but we didn’t quite have the chemistry,” Farr said. “This year I think we’re all having a lot of fun, have good chemistry and we’re getting the results we expect.”
Halftime score: Saratoga Springs, 2-0. Niskayuna scoring: Murvane 1-0. Saratoga Springs scoring: Ruscio 2-0, Farr 1-2, Eldridge 1-0, Paladini 1-0, Hallett 0-1, Turenne 0-1, Rosettie 0-1, Devito 0-1. Goalies: Niskayuna, Thurn, 10 saves. Saratoga Springs, Van Valkenburg, 3 saves; Donnelly, 2 saves.