Niskayuna is hoping to use the lessons it learned from a 2-0 regular-season loss to Bethlehem to reverse that result in tonight’s Section II Class AA boys’ championship game.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Colonie High School.
“I think the game during the regular season was useful for us,” said Joe Carosella, in his second year as the head coach of the Silver Warriors. ”We learned first-hand how well Bethlehem plays. We also learned that if we let their success intimidate us before we step out on the field, we put ourselves on the back foot, and that’s hard to recover from. That’s what happened in the first game.”
Bethlehem is unbeaten through 18 games, following a 14-0-2 Suburban Council season with a pair of postseason victories.
“We definitely respect them, and admire what they’ve done this year — an undefeated season in the Suburban Council is a great accomplishment,” Carosella said. “But we’re confident that we belong on the same field with them, so I think we’ll be ready this time.”
Matt Henning scored off a corner kick, and Ethan Gunty added a goal as Bethlehem snapped a 6-1-1 Silver Warriors’ run midway through the season.
Gunty and Liam Roohan had the goals as 16-0-2 Bethlehem beat Albany, 2-0, in the semifinal round. Niskayuna played Shenendehowa to a scoreless draw in the other semi, and advanced by going
4-for-4 in the penaly-kick tiebreaker, while goalkeeper Taylor Tear stopped half of Shen’s attempts.
Both Bethlehem and Niskayuna are good on the ball, and like to move upfield quickly, using either a long over-the-top pass or a succession of quick passes.
“We’re a quick, technical team, so we want to use that to our advantage,” said Carosella. “If we pressure Bethlehem defensively and minimize the time they have on the ball, we can do well. When we have the ball, we want to move it quickly away from their pressure.
“Everyone knows that Bethlehem has some outstanding players, so our focus has to be on stopping their top performers. We’ve scored fewer goals than they have this year, but our goals have come from 12 different players, including many from guys coming off the bench. So we can surprise people, because you never know who will do the job for us.”
Bethlehem has shaken off a spate of injuries, and some recent postseason disappointments, in shooting for its first title since 2006.
“Last year, we lost our composure and just started kicking the ball up the field. This year, this team, we’re more composed in high-pressure situiations, a lot more patient,” said Bethlehem coach Phil Ridgway.
He expects a battle from Niskayuna.
“They’re tough, they’re a senior-laden team,” he said. “They’ll be strong physically. They’re tough to begin with, and now, they’re playing with emotion.”
The winner goes on to play the Section III champion Saturday in the Syracuse area, with a spot in the state semifinals at stake.