Saratoga County

Mechanicville boys’ soccer hoping early-morning work pays off with state title

Mechanicville's Ethan Raucci charges toward the goal with Declan Kellher of Greenwich in pursuit Wednesday, October 12, 2022.
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Mechanicville's Ethan Raucci charges toward the goal with Declan Kellher of Greenwich in pursuit Wednesday, October 12, 2022.

MECHANICVILLE – Convincing high school students to wake up before the crack of dawn can be a Herculean task, but for the Mechanicville boys’ soccer team, it’s been a way of life this week — and a necessary part of the squad’s preparation for the Class B state final four.

Every day this week, Mechanciville head coach Mike Ciulla said, his team arrived at its field for practice at 6 a.m., still under the cover of darkness.

“We flip the lights on when we get to the field,” Ciulla said, “and then we’ve got to turn them off when the sun comes up.”

The extra-early practice times were, Ciulla said, a way of adapting his team to a much earlier start time than normal. Mechanicville’s state semifinal game Saturday against Section III champion Skaneatles kicks off at 8:30 a.m. at Goshen High School, and the state championship game on Sunday will have the same start time if Mechanicville is able to advance.

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“We’re getting the guys used to getting up early all week,” Ciulla said. “They wanted to do this. Nobody’s complaining about getting up early, they’re here and ready.”

That collective enthusiasm has been a major driving force for a Mechanicville (20-0-2) team that’s making its first-ever trip to the state tournament.

Ciulla’s team has been among the most successful in the area for years now, but it took until this fall to finally get over the hump. The program has won six straight Wasaren League titles, and owns a 77-game unbeaten streak (76 wins, 1 tie) in league play. Over the last three years, Mechanicville has lost just one game — last year’s Section II Class B final against Greenville — but finally winning an outright area tournament has the team soaring with confidence.

Ciulla said he could see that when his team got on the board five minutes into its regional semifinal against Salmon River last week.

“We hit that goal, and it was just all well from there,” Ciulla said. “They knew, ‘Yeah, OK. We’re the real deal. We can do this.’”

Mechanicville’s semifinal opponent, Skaneatles, has won the last two Class B state championships. Meanwhile, no Section II boys’ soccer team has won a state title since Fort Ann’s Class D win in 2015, and no Class B team from the area has won states since Ichabod Crane shared the 2012 title with Livonia.

Mechanicville is one of four Section II soccer teams vying for state championships this weekend. One other boys’ team, Class C’s Maple Hill, advanced to the semifinals and will face Section III champion Cooperstown on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Goshen. Meanwhile, a pair of girls’ soccer teams will compete in semifinals Saturday in the Cortland area — Waterford-Halfmoon in Class C against Millbrook at 10 a.m. at Cortland High School, and Shaker in Class AA against Clarence at 5:30 p.m. at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.

In other state championship action this weekend:

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VOLLEYBALL

All seven Section II volleyball champions — five girls’ teams and two boys’ teams — will be in regional final competition Saturday.

The boys’ champions will be part of a doubleheader at Bethlehem High School, with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake facing Jamesville-Dewitt in Division II, and Shenendehowa facing Fayetteville-Manlius in Division I at 7 p.m.

The five girls’ champions will be in action at three different out-of-section locations. At Fayetteville-Manlius, Shenendehowa faces Baldwinsville in Class AA at 3 p.m., followed by the Class B matchup between Ichabod Crane and Westhill at 5. At Massena, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake faces Massena in a Class A regional at 1 p.m., followed by the Class C match between Galway and Canton at 3. Finally, Lake George heads to Beekmantown for a 1 p.m. Class D regional championship against Lake Placid.

FIELD HOCKEY

Two of the three Section II champions advanced to the state final four, being held at Centereach High School on Long Island. In Class B, South Glens Falls faces Garden City and noon on Saturday, followed at 2 p.m. by the Class C semifinal between Hoosick Falls and Carle Place. Championship games will be held Sunday.

CROSS COUNTRY

Eight Section II team champions and dozens of individual runners will compete for state cross country championships Saturday at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School. Action starts at 10 a.m. with the boys’ Class C race, with races starting every 30 minutes.

Section II has a pair of returning team champions, the Saratoga Springs girls in Class A and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys in Class B, with Saratoga Springs a likely favorite to add more honors to one of the area’s most decorated trophy cases.

The remaining boys’ teams competing are Saratoga Springs in Class A, Fonda-Fultonville in Class C and Lake George in Class D. Rounding out the competing girls’ teams are Scotia-Glenville in Class B, Schuylerville in Class C and Voorheesville in Class D.

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Categories: High School Sports, Sports, Sports

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