Shenendehowa playing for a Section II field hockey championship is nothing new.
Sunday’s appearance in the Class A final against Bethlehem will be the Plainsmen’s 12th consecutive, and their 13th in the last 14 tournaments, but this current edition has taken a path there like none of its predecessors.
Back in mid-September, the Plainsmen were a 1-4 team that had scored one goal. Just before the sectionals, they dropped five consecutive games, and came in with six victories and the fifth seed among seven teams.
“It says a lot about their character,” Shenendehowa coach Shawn Eggleston said. “Multiple times throughout the season, I asked them, ‘What are you made of?’ I told them more than once they can fold or rise to the occasion. They certainly rose to the occasion.”
Shenendehowa (8-10) beat No. 4 Shaker 3-2 in overtime and No. 1 Saratoga Springs 1-0 to reach the championship game it won in 2021 before its runner-up showing in the state tournament. Shenendehowa graduated 13 seniors and all 11 of its starters from that team, making Eggleston’s second season in charge a building project.
“I saw their potential,” Eggleston said. “All of the little things we worked on along the way are coming together. They’re gaining confidence. They’re competing. They’re working through adversity.”
There was plenty of that during the five-game slide late in the regular season, but a positive from it was their play in a 1-0 overtime loss to Suburban Council champion and Class B title-game participant Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. Burnt Hills had roughed up Shenendehowa 7-0 to start the season.
“Going back to the beginning of the season, there’s been constant growth, but Burnt Hills, that’s when we started to believe,” Shenendehowa senior defender and team co-captain Erin Dooley said. “We were all like, ‘Wow, we can do this.’”
Shenendehowa beat Columbia 1-0 in its final league game before logging its two playoff wins, and extending its Class A tournament record for consecutive title game appearances to 12. Shenendehowa and Bethlehem will play in the first of three championship games at Gloversville at 10 a.m.
“This is a completely different team than when we got started,” junior defender Kennedy Campbell said. “We’re playing our game. It’s a team effort where everyone is putting in their best.”
Hannah Mehta scored two goals, including the overtime game-winner, when Shenendehowa beat Shaker in its Class A quarterfinal, and Sydney Byrns turned a Brooke Dickerson feed into a third-quarter goal when the Plainsmen clipped rival Saratoga afterward.
“Anything can happen in the postseason,” Eggleston said. “This is one of those experiences.”
Shaker had beaten Shenendehowa twice by 1-0 scores in the regular season, and Saratoga had dealt the Plainsmen 1-0 and 2-0 defeats.
“We came out with something to prove,” Dooley said of the win over Saratoga. “We never came out with so much energy. We never supported each other better. If someone missed a ball, someone was right there.”
“We are all working for a common goal. We are all dialed in,” Shenendehowa senior back and co-captain Ava Wright said. “Nobody expected this from us, but we are playing well and we have confidence from winning those two games.”
Bethlehem (No. 3, 11-7) defeated No. 6 Niskayuna 5-0 and No. 2 Guilderland 1-0 on Avery Eick’s overtime goal to reach its first Class A final since a 1998 loss to Columbia.
“Bethlehem has had a great season, but it’s hard to beat a team three times,” Eggleston said. “The way we see it, the pressure is on them.”
Like Saratoga did, Bethlehem beat Shenendehowa 1-0 and 2-0 in regular-season play.
“We’ve talked about details of the game,” Eggleston said. “We’ve talked about doing the little things. We’ve talked about beating them to 50-50 balls, and outhustling and outworking them. We know they have a great team, and we have to play the best we can. Don’t dwell on mistakes. If you see a teammate struggle, lift them up.”
Haley Backlund was the scoring star with two goals in Bethlehem’s 5-0 quarterfinal win over Niskayuna.
Burnt Hills (No. 1, 16-1) and South Glens Falls (No. 2, 17-0) will play for the Section II Class B title in Sunday’s second contest at noon. Burnt Hills will be looking to extend its consecutive Section II tournament title record to 10.
“Work hard,” Burnt Hills sophomore Lillian Morse, who scored three goals in her team’s 7-0 semifinal win over Scotia-Glenville, said of the final. “That’s something coach [Kelly Vrooman] always says. Work hard and give it everything we have.”
The youthful matchup will have a Burnt Hills team with three seniors facing a South High team with two 12th-graders, including Mackenna Heustis, who delivered two goals in a 5-3 seminal win over Queensbury.
Burnt Hills defeated South Glens Falls in the 2021 Class B final 1-0 and went on to capture regional and state championships.
Hoosick Falls (No. 1, 17-0) and Johnstown (No. 2, 15-3) will play for the Class C title at 2 p.m., with the Lady Bills making their fourth straight championship-game appearance after losses to the Panthers in 2018 and 2021 and a win over Schuylerville in 2019.
Cole Krempa scored three goals in Johnstown’s 6-0 semifinal win over Granville, and Tatum Hickey and Gwyn Vincent both notched two goals in Hoosick Falls’ 6-0 semifinal win over Schuylerville.
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