After piling up 16 first-quarter goals in its Section II Class B quarterfinal win against Amsterdam, the Niskayuna boys’ lacrosse team managed just one through the opening 12 minutes in Friday’s semifinal matchup with Albany Academy.
The early result left Silver Warriors coach Mike Vorgang perplexed.
“This team is tough to understand. Sometimes, they come out ready to play. Sometimes, they’ll play a good second quarter,” he said. “It’s tough to predict what they’re going to do. The reality is they have to come ready to play, and go full speed for 48 minutes.”
Niskayuna began to play some serious lacrosse after an early lull, and, sparked by Matt Sexton, Brian Schlansker and Bobby Horan, earned its 13th championship date with a 17-5 victory over the Cadets.
The Silver Warriors (No. 1 seed, 14-4) closed the second quarter with four unanswered goals, and ended the third frame with seven in a row to turn back an Albany Academy contingent that scored first, and later tied the contest at two.
“We just came out flat. We didn’t get after it,” said Sexton, a sophomore attackman who finished with a career-high eight points on four goals and four assists. “They came out in a funky zone, and we weren’t cutting and making the right looks, and we weren’t finishing.”
The defending Class B champs began to do all of those things after Dan Mainello scored for the Cadets (No. 4, 14-4) to tie the game at 2-2 with 7:46 left in the second quarter.
“They came out and played faster than us,” said Niskayuna senior defenseman/midfielder Ryan Alden. “That was disappointing because it’s something we’ve emphasized.”
Sexton scored three goals and Schlansker had another in the closing run in the second quarter, and Horan helped put the Cadets away in the third with three goals, each assisted by Sexton.
Schlansker closed with two goals and four assists, Horan notched four goals and Justin McKinney and Colon Foster both added two goals and one assist for the state’s No. 10-ranked team.
“That was good to see, that we responded well,” said Alden, who earlier this week was selected a US Lacrosse All-American. “Bobby and Matt scored some clutch goals for us.”
Matt Rakoczy scored two goals for Albany Academy, including the game’s first 65 seconds in on a bouncer past Ian Verzoni.
“At times, we got some nice play from our guys,” said Albany Academy coach Mark Wimmer. “Rakoczy got a couple of goals for us, and I thought our goalies played well for the number of shots they took on us.”
Niskayuna took 12 shots in the first quarter, yet only one hit the back of the net, when Sexton delivered with 2:24 left.
“They [Albany Academy] came out ready to play. Our guys didn’t execute in the first quarter,” said Vorgang. “It was all about execution.”
Sexton scored goals 37 second apart after Mainello’s second-quarter tally, and after Schlansker connected, Sexton gave Niskayuna 6-2 halftime advantage.
Josh Holmes and Pat Burke scored for Academy early in the third quarter, and Schlansker and Alden answered with goals. A rash of Albany Academy penalties followed, and Horan scored three times among Niskayuna’s final five goals in the quarter, two in six-on-four situations and another in a six-on-five.
“When you play a quality team like Niskayuna, you can’t make mistakes. We made too many,” Wimmer said. “We’re young, and this was a good experience for us. Hopefully, our guys learned some things, and we can grow from this.”
Niskayuna will meet Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (No. 3, 10-8) in Tuesday night’s 7:30 championship game at the University at Albany, with the Spartans posting a 13-9 semifinal win over Queensbury. Niskayuna will be going after its 10th sectional title (Class B and Class A), and its sixth in a row.
Albany Academy 1 1 2 1 — 5
Niskayuna 1 5 7 4 — 17
Albany Academy scoring: Matt Rakoczy 2-0, Dan Mainello 1-0, Josh Holmes 1-0, Matt DeVito 0-2, Pat Burke 1-0, Jack Esler 0-1. Niskayuna scoring: Matt Sexton 4-4, Brian Schlansker 2-4, Colin Foster 2-1, Brendan Montrello 0-1, Guy Waltman 0-2, Ryan Alden 1-0, Bobby Horan 4-0, Lucas Maloney 1-0, Justin McKinney 2-1, Blake Pfohl 0-2, Jack Larkin 1-0.
Goaltenders: Albany Academy, Eric Stucky, 6 saves; Shane Hutchins, 4 saves. Niskayuna, Ian Verzoni, 3 saves.