Shades of 2009 mingled with the shadows stretching across the Colonie field Saturday afternoon.
Just as they did two seasons ago in the Class AA regional finals, Shenendehowa beat Section III champion Baldwinsville, this time, 1-0.
And just as they did two years ago, the Plainsmen felt a little fortunate to be moving into the state semifinals. Shenendehowa coach Mike Campisi was troubled all day by the level of play he saw, constantly demanding more aggression and smarter distribution from his post on the sideline.
“This was probably our worst game that we played all year,” Campisi said. “But to come out with a win, it says a lot for the boys. You try to kill the game toward the end of the second half, and I think we were trying to kill the game at the beginning of the second half. But I’ve got to give them credit. They bent, but they didn’t break.”
Shenendehowa will play in the 11:15 a.m. semifinal at Middletown High School on Saturday against the winner of Hicksville (Section VIII) and Brentwood (XI), who play tonight.
In 2009, the Plainsmen beat Baldwinsville on penalty kicks after squandering a 2-0 halftime lead. They then lost in the state semis to Newburgh Free Academy (IX).
If Shenendehowa is to reach the finals and vie for its first state title since 2005, senior midfielder Michael Jenkins said a few things have to change in a hurry.
“We were rushing a lot and didn’t have a lot of control, or pretty much any possession in the second half,” Jenkins said. “We definitely have to work on that, because if we play like this in the next game, it’s not going to work out so well. We need to possess the ball. That’s our game, possessing the ball and getting as many opportunities as we can.”
The Plainsmen got on the board in the 13th minute when, playing with the wind, senior defenseman Shane Breznak sent a long ball forward for senior Adam Barlow.
Barlow was held up momentarily by a Baldwinsville defender, but fought free and got to the ball on the bounce, just before it could be corralled by advancing keeper Alex Bono. Barlow reached out and tapped it past Bono and into the right side of the goal.
Just two minutes later, Jenkins sent another long ball for Barlow, but it was just out of his reach.
For much of the game, though, the Plainsmen were unable to build attacks, instead looking for quick strikes. Once they lost the wind advantage after the break, offense was even harder to come by. A couple of long passes into the left corner for Philip Barrett accounted for most of it.
Still, as the Bees (18-2-0) pressured the Plainsmen (19-1-0) throughout the second half, the Shenendehowa defense found ways to keep the ball away from goalie Spencer Junco.
“Obviously, our defense has played great all year. We’ve had so many shutouts,” Jenkins said. “Spencer and the whole defense keep us together.”
Junco was called on to make three saves, all in the second half, to secure the team’s 13th shutout of the season. The Plainsmen have allowed just one postseason goal, and that on a free kick by Colonie in a 2-1 Shenendehowa win.
Bono made five saves for Baldwinsville, only a couple on well-struck balls.
Baldwinsville was not without chances, especially late. The Bees had a direct kick from just outside the box after a Shen handball in the 77th minute, but Adam Lauko chipped it over the crossbar.
In the 75th minute, the ball found the foot of Baldwinsville leading scorer Ben Ramin in the Shen box, but Breznak was on hand to take it off his foot as he was shooting.
In the 66th minute, after a long throw-in, Baldwinsville’s Blaine Drake found the ball as it settled near the top of the box, sending a low diagonal ball through the right side of the penalty area. Sean Stewart ran on to the far post, but was just a few steps too late and didn’t reach it for a shot.
“If you’re not playing your best game, and you’re winning, that says something,” Campisi said. “This week, we’ve got to work on some things. We just weren’t as composed as we had been.”
Broadalbin-Perth earned a berth in the state semifinals with a 5-1 win over Section VII’s Beekmantown at Schuylerville.
The Patriots got goals from Ben Bellandi and Dom Kwiatkowski less than three minutes apart in the first half. Bellandi scored again in the 77th minute. Ethan Church and Mark Sylvia also scored in the second half.
Austin Burl scored for Beekmantown.
The Patriots will play Saturday at 9:15 a.m. at Middletown against Section VI champ Akron.
Maple Hill wins
Steve Sepowski scored twice on penalty kicks — once after a handball and once after a foul — to help Maple Hill beat Section X champ Madrid-Waddington, 4-1, at Schuylerville.
Jaycob Yager and Willie Montie also scored goals for the Wildcats, who will play Saturday at 8:30 a.m. in Middletown.
Matt Kendell scored for Madrid-Waddington.
Fort Ann to semis
Mike Gusek scored the lone goal of the game in the 47th minute as Fort Ann topped Family School, 1-0, at Colonie in a regional final.
Gusek played the ball low into the box, but a defender collected it and tried to clear it. Gusek jumped through the clearance, directing the ball back toward the Family School net, then finished it to the far corner past the keeper, who had come off his line to grab the ball.
Fort Ann will play Section III champion Hamilton in the state semifinals on Saturday at Middletown High School at 4 p.m.