Saratoga Springs field hockey coach Jo-Anne Hostig implored her team again and again to be aggressive with the ball prior to its Suburban Council opener against Shenendehowa Wednesday at Steuerwald Stadium.
“That’s what we wanted,” Hostig said. “Instead, they put the pressure on us. We were definitely under a lot of pressure.”
Shenendehowa won the statistical battle, but the Blue Streaks took the game, 1-0, with sophomore Samantha Geils making nine saves in her varsity debut and veteran Maclaine Matties supplying the lone goal late in the opening half.
“We’ve got a new defensive group back there, and they held their own,” said Hostig. “It took us a half to readjust.”
Saratoga successfully defended eight penalty corners in a busy first half and four more in the second half, and was outshot, 9-6. The Blue Streaks were awarded only one penalty corner, that offensive opportunity coming with 22:35 remaining in the contest pitting longtime rivals.
“Look at the stats, and we played a better game. We need to keep working. It’s early,” said Shenendehowa coach Jeanne Frevola. “Only the last meeting is what counts. Last year, we lost four overtime games and then we peaked at the end.”
Shenendehowa won its second straight Section II Class A championship and third in four seasons last fall. Suburban Council first-team all-star forwards Hope Andrascik, Elizabeth Cusack and Mary Kate Cusack graduated, as did second-team forward Danielle DaCunha.
“It’s a rebuilding year, as far as our offense. What we have, they’re young, but they’re good,” Frevola said. “You saw the penalty corners and the shots on goal. They played well. It’s going to come.”
Playing in place of graduated Lauryn Huck, Geils made a pair of sprawling stops in a five-save first half as Saratoga held off Shenendehowa’s assault.
“She’s new, but she played like she’s not new,” said Hostig.
Geils kept the game scoreless late in the first half when she came off the line and denied Anna Branch on a breakaway attempt. Both players spilled to the turf.
“My first double stuff was a big adrenaline rush. That was cool,” Geils said of the play. “I was a little jittery, and that helped calm me down.”
“Our goalie stepped up,” said Matties, a senior back. “The double stack was good to see. It’s something she’s been working on, and it was good to see her put that into the game.”
Midfielder Emily Petruccione played a key role for the Blue Streaks in the open field and as their flyer while defending penalty corners.
“She slowed them down,” Hostig said of the league first-team all-star. “She’s one of our more experienced players. She got in the play quickly [on corners] and kept a low stick.”
“I try to break up the play,” said Petruccione. “The other girls stepped up and made plays behind me.”
Shenendehowa got an overtime goal from Anna Bottino in a 1-0 non-league win over reigning Section II Class B champion Johnstown Friday before coming up empty in what could be the first of three go-arounds with Saratoga. Lindsay Rutz, Meg Roberts and Ann Mahoney were among Saratoga’s defensive standouts.
“We moved the ball. A lot of kids were getting touches. I want them to take their shot,” said Frevola. “That’s what their kid [Matties] did. She saw our defenders were a little confused with their coverage and let it rip. It was a rocket.”
Matties was awarded a free start from the top of the circle, dribbled in on Shenendehowa netminder Melissa Nealon (five saves) and scored on a close-range low drive to the right corner of the cage with 1:22 left in the first half.
“We had to do something. We weren’t getting a lot of opportunities,” said Matties. “I saw an opening and went for it.”
Saratoga defeated Shenendehowa twice in overtime last year, both times by a 3-2 count, before Shenendehowa posted a 1-0 Section II semifinal win over the Blue Streaks. The Lady Plainsmen later beat Niskayuna for the Class A banner.
“This is a great start. It helps build confidence,” said Matties. “It was good to see us work together, and now we know we can rise to the challenge.”