Can Ballston Spa’s lacrosse team follow up its history-making performance with one more?
“We’re going to do everything we can to slow them down and make it a battle,” Scotties coach Joe Pollicino said of today’s Section II Class B title game with unbeaten Niskayuna. “We’re going there to play. We’re not just going there.”
Ballston Spa accomplished a program first when it knocked off Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 10-6, in Thursday’s semifinal round. The breakthrough victory after three semifinal defeats set up a third go-round with Niskayuna, the state’s No. 1-ranked team, today at 3:30 at the University at Albany’s John Fallon Field.
“I won two sectional titles at Shaker and won a national title at Herkimer. I’ve been a part of some special things, and it was great to see our kids be part of something special. I know how hard they’ve worked. It was a huge win for the kids,” said Pollicino. “It was great to see them and their families celebrate. Going into the Burnt Hills game, I told them, ‘This is ours if we want it. We can make history,’ and the kids focused in on that.”
Ballston Spa’s first three semifinal appearances ended with Class B losses to LaSalle in 2002 (12-2) and Glens Falls in 2003 (7-6), and a Class A setback against Shenendehowa in 2011 (15-3).
Ballston Spa’s rubber-match triumph over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake included a 4-1 third-quarter run that made it 8-4.
“The key was in the third quarter. It was 7-4 and we were man-down, and we stopped them from scoring,” Pollicino said. “Then we end up scoring in the last second when John McDonald makes a great pass to Trey Swingruber. That’s a two-goal swing, and it was huge for our momentum. I’d say that was the back-breaker.”
Ballston Spa turned aside South Glens Falls in the quarterfinals, 17-7, before the Burnt Hills win in which Jake Gargiulo scored three goals, Andrew Gentile and Coltin Moseman both notched two, and Jon Blake made 17 saves.
“Burnt Hills is very athletic, and they have a tremendous coach [Tom Schwan],” said Pollicino. “I thought we had a great chance to win, but I knew it was going to be a dog fight.”
Pollicino is well aware that today’s contest will be a much more difficult scrap.
“They’re like the USSR hockey team in the 1960s and ’70s,” he said of Niskayuna, which will be making its 11th title-game appearance in as many year, and its 14th in 15 seasons. “They play so well as a unit.”
Ballston Spa (No. 2 seed, 11-7) played Niskayuna (No. 1, 18-0) twice in Suburban Council games and sustained 19-1 and 16-4 defeats. With its up-tempo style, Niskayuna outscored Ballston Spa in the first half of those games, 18-1.
“They’ve scored 35 goals on us, and 26 of them have come in transition,” Pollicino said. “Six-on-six, we match up pretty well. What we have to do is try to keep them from running, and when they do, get back and defend.
“Our kids have to be athletes and stay on their hands, and when we get our chances on offense, we have to take advantage of it.”
Scotia-Glenville’s plan was to play keep away in Thursday’s semifinal with Niskayuna. The Silver Warriors ended up winning, 17-1, after building a 10-0 halftime lead.
“We said right from the beginning, we had to dictate the pace of the game. We tried to slow it down,” said Scotia-Glenville coach and Section II lacrosse coordinator Bob Gula. “We didn’t want to get into a transition game with them. What hurt us was we started turning the ball over. When you slow it down, you have to be ready for their defensive pressure because they do it so well.”
Since opening the season with a 14-12 win over Shenendehowa, Niskayuna has been seriously tested only a couple of times, in a 14-9 win over Darien (Conn.) and in a 10-9 triumph at Jamesville-DeWitt, when Niskayuna wrestled the No. 1 state ranking away from the Syracuse team.
Niskayuna got multiple points from each member of its starting attack and from its top two offensive midfielders in Thursday’s win over the Tartans. North Carolina-bound Luke Goldstock paced the attack group with five goals and two assists, Mike D’Amario had three goals and an assist, and Lucas Maloney finished with two goals and two assists. Aidan O’Brien also had two goals and two assists, and fellow midfielder Ryan Lawson had a team-leading three assists.
“They share the ball so well. They make the extra pass,” said Pollicino. “I teach the same thing, and we’re getting there. Niskayuna is there.”
Two more finals
Glens Falls (No. 1, 8-5) and Schuylerville (No. 2, 15-2) will play for the Class C championship today at 1. Shenendehowa (No. 1, 15-3) and Shaker (No. 3, 16-2) will meet for the Class A title at 6.
Glens Falls claimed the last three Class C crowns while Schuylerville earned its only title just before the Indians’ run in 2009. Glens Falls has won six straight games, including a 9-8 victory over the Wasaren League champs.
Shenendehowa will be making its fourth consecutive appearance in the Class A final, with wins over Bethlehem in 2010 and Niskayuna in 2011. Shaker secured its last sectional title in 2000.