Smart team defense and timely goal scoring can take a team a long way.
That combination worked again Tuesday for the Shenendehowa girls’ soccer team, which remained unbeaten by converting a penalty kick and a free kick to beat Suburban Council rival Niskayuna, 2-1.
Senior Jaclyn Romano produced the winning goal, heading in a redirection of Meghan Merritt’s restart from the right side of the penalty area.
The goal came with 6:23 to play, and two minutes after Niskayuna had tied things, following Shenendehowa senior Katie Benson’s PK conversion.
“I don’t get a lot of goals like that,” said Romano of her header that got inside the right post after Niskayuna goalie Kristen Hartlage got a hand to Merritt’s free kick. “It got knocked back across, and I just followed it.”
“Phenomenal finish by Jackie,” praised Shenendehowa goalkeeper Makala Foley, who was strong in the air and coming off her line.
Romano’s goal was the result of what the Lady Plainsmen’s coaching staff has been preaching.
“We have really focused on following shots, and that’s what Jaclyn did. She didn’t give up on the play. She kept going and found the ball,” said Maria Wright, who is handling the varsity team along with Brittaney Rosmarin until head coach Holli Mulholland returns after giving birth to a daughter last week.
The game was scoreless until Benson drilled her PK into the lower right corner 10 minutes into the second half.
“They were tangled, and their kid went down. It’s a good call,” said Niskayuna coach Bryce Colby. “It’s the call I wish we could get, but we don’t. Meghan doesn’t draw that foul.”
Outside left defender Amanda Underhill helped her team keep the lead, knocking a chip from Niskayuna’s dangerous Meghan Doyle off the line moments after the first goal.
Doyle had beaten the defense and was coming in alone, and Foley came well off her line to cut down her shooting angle.
“Amanda is a very smart player,” said Foley. “She saw I had to come out, and covered the back post.
Foley wasn’t surprised by the play.
“Our three backs [Underhill and Sara NasserElgrgawi flanking Lauren Bausch] are the key to our team,” she said. “They’re very good at communicating, getting us up and back and keeping our focus.”
Doyle, one of the top scorers in the league, was held to a few good chances.
“Meghan never got in the groove. We had trouble finding her early on, and she had trouble finding the ball later on,” said Colby, whose team fell to 6-2-0.
Sophomore Marika Contompasis scored the Niskayuna goal, a play started by a corner kick.
“I thought Marika did a nice job playing striker,” Colby said. “She was able to get to those balls down the line and create some problems, with Meghan drawing their attention.”
Niskayuna had the better of the attacking play, especially in the first half, but hurt itself with a pair of costly fouls.
“We talked about eliminating set pieces, and they scored off two of them, one a penalty,” Colby said.
Shenendehowa’s co-coaches feel the players have done a good job of adjusting to the absence of their head coach the last two games.
“It’s got to be a little tough for them, because they’re used to Holli’s voice,” Wright said.
Foley, a three-year starter, said that the team’s 6-0-1 start is a good omen.
“I feel like I’ve seen different things. This year, every single player on the team wants to win every single game,” she said. “Every
time we step on the field, we’re focused.
“That’s good, because the second half of our schedule is going to be demanding.”