The string of shutouts put together by the Saratoga Springs field hockey team finally came to an end, but only after a brilliant defensive stand against the Suburban Council’s highest-scoring team.
The Streaks’ Sam Geils made her 21st save moments before Ali Frary connected for a goal late in the second overtime as Niskayuna posted a thrilling 1-0 victory over its longtime rival Friday afternoon.
“I have to applaud them,” Frary said of the Blue Streaks. “They were with us the whole game, back and forth, back and forth.”
Saratoga had blanked Shenendehowa, Bethlehem and Shaker prior to the early-season showdown, while Niskayuna had piled up 14 goals in earlier wins against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, reigning Foothills Council champ Glens Falls and Guilderland.
“In our previous games, we were connecting from defense to midfield to the forward line, and we had more room in the circle,” said Niskayuna coach Alison Broomhead. “Saratoga was down there packing it in. At times, they had all of their players down there on defense.”
Niskayuna hammered away, only to be denied time and again, with Geils serving as the final line of defense. The sophomore first-year starter was spectacular in the first seven-on-seven 10-minute overtime, with nine saves, and made three more, including a diving stop, in the second OT.
“I didn’t want to let my team down,” said Geils. “I gave it 100 percent.”
Frary did, too, in finishing off another classic confrontation between the perennial league heavyweights with 1:50 remaining on a drive to the lower-left corner of the cage. Frary also notched the only goal in the second overtime when Niskayuna clipped Saratoga in a 2010 Section II Class A semifinal game.
“I shot it and the ball came back out after their goalie made a great save. One of the Saratoga girls brought it out, and I made a tackle on her,” said the junior forward. “I looked up and saw the corner, and I shot it again.”
Frary’s goal, her fourth of the season, came on Niskayuna’s 23rd shot.
“It was a great play. She did everything we practice,” Broomhead said. “She shot and continued to follow it. She’s a player that continues to fight for it.”
Saratoga battled hard to keep its shutout string intact, fending off 19 penalty corners by the reigning league champions.
“The defense is taking it as a pride thing,” said Saratoga coach Jo-Anne Hostig, who got strong efforts from Emily Petruccione, Meg Roberts and Lindsay Rutz, among others. “You can see it. They’re taking ownership.”
Niskayuna was awarded six penalty corners over the final eight minutes in the opening half, had four in a quick flurry midway through the second half and earned eight corners in the initial overtime.
Alexa Angerami had a goal disallowed in that second-half sequence when her drive came from about 10 inches outside the top of the circle.
“All of the elements were there up to getting the corners, and we got shots when we took the corners,” said Broomhead. “All of our steps were perfect, but we couldn’t get a rebound off their goalie. For a sophomore, she played with a lot of confidence.”
The succession of stops by Geils and defensive clears ended late in the second overtime.
“It finally broke down. It was a three on one,” Hostig said. “You could see it developing.”
Niskayuna also won its season opener in overtime, beating Burnt Hills, 3-2, on a goal by Carrie Hanks. The Silver Warriors slugged Glens Falls after that behind Frary’s three goals, 6-1, and then topped Guilderland, 5-0, when Ali Wells scored twice.
“Our defense was like human magnets. The girls put so much into it,” said Hostig. “All we needed was an exclamation mark at the end.”
Saratoga had momentum on its side early in the contest, with Petruccione spearheading several rushes, and controlled most of the play over the final 10 minutes of regulation. The Blue Streaks took all three of their shots in regulation, and Niskayuna’s Emily King made her only save with 2:30 left on a blast by Sam Petruzzo.
Saratoga was awarded three penalty corners in regulation and none in the extra sessions.
“Our team came together. The whole team was fighting through it,” said Frary. “Everyone was supporting everyone. The forwards were getting back, and the midfielders were covering for the defense.”