For Peter Melito, the journey held just as much importance as the games his Niskayuna lacrosse team played.
“I think you lose something when you focus too much on the wins and losses,” said Melito, who last week stepped down as the high school’s varsity girls’ coach. “The big thing to me was the experience the kids had, the practices, the team building.
“I couldn’t tell you what our record was in 2008, but I can tell you all the kids had a fantastic time.”
While Melito put an emphasis on fun and learning, along the way his Silver Warriors had their share of success, too, including a run to the state semifinals in that 2008 season.
In his 11 years, the Silver Warriors captured five Section II championships and two other times got as far as the tournament semifinals.
“I had good players. Good athletes. Good kids,” said the 35-year-old social studies teacher. “I’d trust them to watch my kids.”
Melito is the father of 6-year-old Mya, who’s budding athletic career entails soccer, basketball and T-ball, and 3-year-old Michael.
“Last week, I was planning out our season and my own kids’ activities, and it kind of hit me that I don’t want to miss this. I can always go back to coaching, but ages 6 and 3 are not always going to be there,” said Melito.
“It was definitely a tough decision because of the relations you build with kids. It’s tough to talk to kids after a tough loss or when the season ends, but that was the hardest conversation with players I ever had.”
Melito’s players got better with his urging and support.
“To build a powerful program, you have to do things year-round to some degree,” he said. “I got the kids to play in the offseason and buy into what it takes to win at that level.”
Niskayuna won four straight Section II Class B championships from 2007-10 before claiming the Class A banner in 2011, and Melito’s last team made it to the Class A semifinals before an 8-7 setback against Shaker. Those six teams combined for a 79-35 record.
“The kids always pushed each other and tried to make their teammates better, and that made us better,” said Melito. “That became part of our culture.”
Melito coached 14 Division I lacrosse players, including three-time All-American and Niskayuna career scoring leader Kayla Treanor, who is in her freshman year at Syracuse University. Treanor and Ritchie Assini — a freshman at Johns Hopkins — scored late goals as Niskayuna rallied for a 15-14 win over Guilderland in the 2011 sectional final.
Guilderland had won 80 straight games against Section II competition and four consecutive Class A titles before Niskayuna prevailed in arguably the greatest area final at any level. Niskayuna later beat Kingston (15-8) and then lost to Lakeland/Panas (12-11) in regional games to complete a 15-5 season.
Niskayuna also won 15 games in 2010 (15-3) and 2008 (15-6).
“That championship game with Guilderland was unbelievable. It was back and forth the whole game. That’s one of our great wins,” said Melito. “We had another one against Horseheads about six years ago. We were down, 4-0, with 10 minutes left. The kids didn’t quit, and we ended up winning it [5-4]. The other big game that stands out was when we beat Yorktown [13-12] and got to the state semifinals in 2008. They were always our [regional] nemesis.”
Niskayuna came close to pulling off an upset in Melito’s first varsity season in 2002, when his team lost to Saratoga Springs, 8-7, in the sectional semifinals. Melito led the Niskayuna junior varsity the season before whiledoing graduate work at Union College.
“It’s kind of a funny story. The first girls’ lacrosse game I saw, I coached. My background is in basketball. As far as lacrosse, fooling around with my friends is all I ever did,” said Melito, who grew up in Massachusetts. “After I got the position, I watched [then-Union
lacrosse coach Linda Bevelander] at her practices and met with her, and tried to learn as much as I could.”
Saratoga Springs track and cross country standouts Taylor Driscoll and Keelin Hollowood signed national letters Thursday to the University of Notre Dame and Providence College, respectively.
Saratoga field hockey player Maclaine Matties signed with Fairfield, and soccer players Dylan Macvane (Marist) and Preston Rice (Shippensburg) also made their commitments official.
Schalmont’s Isabella Borini will compete in the heptathlon for the University at Buffalo after inking her pact Wednesday. Bethlehem soccer players Tara Teal (Manhattan) and Katie Nickles (Rhode island) joined golfer Victor Fox (Maryland) in a group signing Wednesday.
Justyn Verbraska of state Class B soccer champion Ichabod Crane made his pact with The College of Saint Rose official on Thursday.
Shenendehowa football player Marcelino Christie (West Point Prep) and track ace Caroline Hampton (Niagara) will sign Tuesday.
Gordon goes deep
Niskayuna junior guard Aaron Gordon set a school record with nine three-point baskets in Thursday’s 83-82 triple-overtime Suburban Council loss at Saratoga Springs.
Mike Rubilotta had held the Niskayuna record with eight threes in a 79-63 loss against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake during the 1989-90 season. Gordon topped that with his ninth three that tied Thursday’s game at 80-80 late in the third OT.
“He has picture-perfect form. He has a great stroke, and that’s come from working hard at it,” said Niskayuna coach Ian McShane. “It all came together for him, and he made big shot after big shot.”
Gordon finished with a career-high 32 points. His previous highes were 18 points and five threes which he delivered in Tuesday’s 62-56 setback against Burnt Hills.
“I’m hoping this propels him into the spring, summer and fall and comes back and has a great senior season,” said McShane.
Brandon Fine’s putback basket after Gordon’s last three had Niskayuna up, 82-80. Chris Byno pushed Saratoga ahead on a three-point play with 5.7 seconds left.
The Section II three-point record for one game is 11, set by Argyle’s Andrew Sherwin in a 2003-04 game against Fort Ann.
All in the family
Garrett Pitcher became just the second player in the long history of Berne-Knox-Westerlo boys’ basketball to reach 1,000 points Tuesday night when he dropped 24 on Mayfield in a 64-55 win.
The senior forward entered the Western Athletic Conference crossover game with 984 points, and joined his grandfather, Ted Pitcher, on the school’s milestone list. Ted Pitcher reached 1,000 in 1955.
Hoop pre-sale tickets
Tickets for Monday night’s Green Tech at Albany Academy boys’ basketball game will be available on a pre-sale basis only.
Tickets sales will start Monday at 11 a.m. at the Albany Academy athletic office. The game starts at 7. Albany Academy (12-3) owns a 79-68 win over Green Tech (12-3), and is ranked No. 4 among the state’s Class A teams. Green Tech is ranked No. 17 among the state’s Class AA teams.
Season average leaders Jason Cramer of Duanesburg (196.54) and Carly Poyfair of Mayfield (172.67) have been selected the Western Athletic Conference most valuable players.
High series honors went to Damon Mason of Canajoharie (694) and Brittany Nelson of Middleburgh (618), and high single laurels went to Hunter Guest of Middleburgh (297) and Virginia Johnson of Mayfield (234).
Johnson (578) and Bailey Pitonza of Canajoharie (611) had the high series’ in the league tournament. Canajoharie (boys) and Mayfield (girls) swept the regular season and league tournament championships.
Rivers softball clinic
Union College and Franklin Pierce University are jointly conducting a softball clinic to benefit the Deanna Marie Rivers Foundation on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Sports Barn in Halfmoon.
The clinic for girls age 7-12 (4:30-6:30 p.m) and age 13-18 (7-9 p.m.) will include hitting and pitching instruction from players and coaches from both institutions. There is a $25 minimum donation per player, and those who plan to attend can register online at www.-haynersportsbarn.com.
Rivers, who played softball for Shenendehowa, died in an auto accident in December, along with schoolmate Christopher Stewart.
Melissa Morgan, a 2012 Shenendehowa graduate who played alongside Rivers, is a member of the Franklin Pierce team. Union’s roster includes local graduates Liz Hackert (Ballston Spa), Sam Chevalier (Columbia), Erika Hillenbrand (Duanesburg) and Aimee Palleschi (Chatham).