Sometimes, there are games when a standout player doesn’t get a win.
Saratoga Springs goalkeeper Zoie Cavotta was such a player Friday, flashing her big stick to make a series of timely stops in an 11-7 setback against Suburban Council rival Shenendehowa at Gavin Park.
“She kept our team in the game,” Blue Streaks lacrosse coach Leanne Lofink said of the first-year varsity starter. “She was a huge factor in this being as close as it was.”
Cavotta made seven saves in the first half, all of them coming on free-position drives, before the Lady Plainsmen put together several scoring connections to pull away for their second win over the Blue Streaks (5-9, 6-10) and fifth in a row overall heading into the Section II tournament.
Shenendehowa (11-3, 12-3) had beaten Saratoga’s young team, 18-5, on April 4, with 10 of those goals coming in an opening-half blitz.
“We played the whole game,” said Cavotta, a junior. “Sometimes, we’d put our heads down and get discouraged, but not today. We put up a good fight. We put a lot of heart into this.”
Cavotta led the charge early, and Bri Sirianni came on late with the game’s final four goals.
“She made some unbelievable saves,” Shenendehowa coach Jen Sykes said of Cavotta. “We scouted her, and she can be streaky. Today, she was on. She held them in there. We score two there, and it cracks the game open.”
Sykes was referring to the first half, when Shenendehowa built a 6-3 lead. The gap could have been much wider if not for Cavotta and her seven free-position stops.
“I don’t look at them. I look at the ball,” said Cavotta. “I put pressure on my right foot and anticipate low because that’s where most shooters go. The high shots are easier to save.”
Cavotta was brilliant in the one-on-one situations that came after defensive infractions, and ended up stopping nine of Shenendehowa’s 11 free-position shots. Cavotta made 11 stops in all in what she said was her finest effort of the season.
“She’s, by far, our most improved player this year,” said Lofink. “She’s really learned to go out there and not be afraid of the ball. She has gained so much confidence. She’s done very well.”
Cavotta made three saves early in the second half before Kaitlyn Curley broke through for the Lady Plainsmen in close after the ball deflected off a teammate.
That goal began a 5-0 run by Shenendehowa, with Maddie Shea, Katie Kerner, Anna Branch and Paige Byrne connecting afterward on close-range goals.
“I’d rather have that [free positions] than right-on shots,” said Cavotta. “On frees, I have more of a chance to save it.”
Shenendehowa was at its offensive best when it notched the four goals that made it 11-3. Gina Zappone, Kristen Connors and Lindsey Waring set up the first three with accurate passes from behind the cage to the front, and Byrne scored unassisted when she raced from behind and hit the upper corner.
“We’ve worked all season on the off-ball girl taking what the defense gives us,” said Sykes. “To connect three in a row, that was the pivotal point of no return, although Saratoga did a good job of coming back.”
Byrne’s third goal of the game gave Shenendehowa its 11-3 advantage with 14:46 left. Sirianni scored three of her four goals down the stretch on free positions after making hard runs toward the cage.
“She’s a leader,” Lofink said of the Siena College-bound Sirianni, the Blue Streaks’ only senior. “She picked it up, and the team picked it up.”
Sirianni assisted on back-to-back goals by Hanna Wise in the first half as Saratoga drew within 5-3. Rachel Picchi followed with a free position goal, Shenendehowa’s second in the opening half.
“Playing them the first time to playing them now, what a huge difference,” said Lofink.
Shenendehowa played without Brockport-bound scoring leader Kelly Wall, who had a family commitment.
“Other kids stepped up, and that was great to see,” said Sykes. “A lot of different people have been stepping up for us over the last several games. We’re playing well heading into the sectionals.”
Shenendehowa 6 5 — 11
Saratoga Springs 3 4 — 7
Shenendehowa scoring: Katie Kerner
1-0, Anna Branch 1-0, Rachael Picchi 2-0, Kristen Connors 1-2, Gina Zappone 0-1, Paige Byrne 3-0, Lindsey Waring 0-1, Maddie Shea 2-0, Kaitlyn Curley 1-0. Saratoga Springs scoring: Bri Sirianni 4-2, Hanna Wise 2-0, Molly Kern 1-0.
Goalkeepers: Shenendehowa, Sheeva Massoudi, 6 saves. Saratoga Springs, Zoie Cavotta, 11 saves.