Goal scoring proved to be the undoing for both the Niskayuna and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ soccer teams in 2011, with both exiting the postseason early.
Neither side has exactly lit up the scoreboard this season, either, with Niskayuna’s 1-0 win on the Spartans’ home field Tuesday a pretty good indication of where both teams stand.
Brendan Griffiths scored the game’s only goal, running on to a through ball from Joe Repicky that split the two Spartans’ central defenders in the 14th minute.
“We’re young and inexperienced, and it showed, especially in the first half,” said Burnt Hills coach Roy Pfeil, whose Spartans had used defense to carry them to 1-0 wins over Saratoga Springs and Shaker in their first two games. “I thought we did play better in the second half, but we’ve got just two seniors — Timmy Hughes and our goalkeeper, Kurtis Souza — who start.
“We’ve got lot of juniors, and sometimes, their inexperience shows. These guys aren’t used to this level.”
Niskayuna dropped a 3-1 decision to Shenendehowa in its opener, then beat Ballston Spa, 1-0.
“We just couldn’t score enough goals last year. I think we had a minus-7 goal differential and had 10 losses,” said second-year Niskayuna coach Joe Carosella. “We did not play well against Shenendehowa, maybe because of early-season nerves. We were still experimenting a little bit, and trying to fit people in.
“We played much better against Ballston Spa, and had better possession, which is what we want to do. It’s good to play direct occasionally, but we want to play off the possession to get our chances.”
Repicky’s flick perfectly split the Burnt Hills defense on the goal, leaving Griffiths with only Souza to beat.
“Repicky is a very dynamic player. He can change the game,” Carosella said.
“That’s the first goal we’ve given up, in a game or a scrimmage,” said Pfeil, who praised the work of Souza in keeping his team in the contest. “Kurtis played a great game. He’s one of the better keepers in the area.”
Niskayuna senior defender Scott Fishel likes the way his team is playing, particularly in the back.
“The Shenendehowa game, we didn’t play well. I don’t know why, but it was the first game, and we’ve played better each game,” said Fishel, who has moved to right back after playing a central defender spot last season.
“We’re pretty solid, defensively. We just need to keep working on capitalzing on our chances.”
“Defensively, we’re very solid, with Scott and Ian Cutting on the flanks,” said Carosella. “The two center backs [Nick Shanahan and Brennan Colby] came up from JV, and they were very good on JV last year. They moved in pretty smoothly, and we moved Scott outside, which gets him more involved in the offense.”
Both coaches substituted liberally, though Pfeil was missing two key players in his son, Brian, at center mid, and forward Paul Boni. Both are nursing injuries.
“We’re very deep this year,” said Carosella, who started seven seniors. “We played six defenders today, and one was a sophomore.
“We played seven or eight center midfielders, and one of them was a sophomore, and two of the three strikers are sophomores. I have a lot of flexibility.”
“We had to make a couple of adjustments,” said Pfeil, who started eight 11th-graders. “Timmy said it was a little different without Brian with him in the middle.
“But it’s the same old thing for us. We’re trying to position ourselves for the Class A tournament. We’re trying to keep the games close, learn from our experiences and try to improve. I’ve been telling them it’s better to make our mistakes early and learn from them.”