When you win Section II titles as frequently as the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls soccer team, the bar is raised just a little bit higher.
Coach Brian Bold, who is 8-for-8 in Class A finals since succeeding Kevin Fitzpatrick, does admit to being a little concerned about the current team’s 1-3-0 start.
Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Bethlehem, another team with a string of recent postseason success, did a lot to alleviate Bold’s concerns.
“It’s been the longest grace period for us to settle in our personnel and personalities. We never come flying out of the gate, but it’s been a little longer grace period,” he said after the Lady Spartans used goals from freshman Krissy Bikowicz and senior Morgan Burchhardt to win for the fourth time in five games and finally get above .500 (6-5-0) in the Suburban Council.
“We needed this game, mentally. We needed to play well and get a good result. This is a good mental boost for us.”
With veteran varsity players Burchhardt and junior Meghan Malone, Bold knew his team would score goals.
Replacing the three starting midfielders, most of the defenders and a three-year starting goalkeeper was a concern.
Senior Michaela Hitt has been a big reason things have settled on the Burnt Hills’ back four.
“We made her a captain because she came into preseason absolutely focused,” said Bold, who moved Angie Giorgio from midfield to pair with Hitt in the role of central defenders. “She’s the kind of kid who leads by example. Her and Angie in the back, I may not be able to hear them over here at the bench, but they’re communicating and organizing.
“And we’ve played five kids at the right back position, so they’ve been tutoring the whole season.”
“We’re good at talking, and we work well together,” said Hitt of her partnership with Giorgio. ‘And we’re good at adjusting.”
Another 12th-grader, Elle Muller, has done a good job of handling the left flank.
“She’s the kind of kid who’s going to give you everything she has. She’s not going to be brilliant, but she’s not going to hurt you,” Bold said.
“We’re settling in and getting used to it,” said Hitt, the lone returning starter in back. “We lost our whole midfield from last year, and that’s a huge deal.
“I think we’re doing very well. We got off to a rough start, but I think we’re starting to play better.”
Bikowicz scored with two seconds remaining in the first half, knocking home the rebound of her own shot off Bethlehem goalkeeper Miranda Nanziano.
Burchhardt, who had one shot graze the crossbar and another smack off the post moments earlier, ripped home a laser from 20 yards out with 6:34 left.
“We’re getting it a little more. There’s still a lot to work on. But we’re getting there,” said the College of Saint Rose-bound Burchhardt. “We’re improving every game.”
Bethlehem coach Tom Rogan is still trying to find one or two players that can be consistently dangerous in the offensive third, as his team was shut out for the second straight time and fell to 5-5-0, the most Suburban Council losses for the Lady Eagles since the 2001 team was beaten six times.
“We knew coming into the season it was going to be tough scoring goals. Against the better teams, we’ve really struggled,” said Rogan, whose team saw its run as sectional Class AA champion end at four last fall.
“We’ve had a lot of 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 games. We’re in them, but we’ve got to figure out a way to get goals,”
That’s not a problem with Burchhardt, who showed how dangerous she is from 30 yards and in with the ball at either foot, despite regularly drawing two defenders
“Morgan has to realize every time she touches the ball, she’s going to draw two defenders,” Bold said. “She’s dealing with that.”
With the postseason three weeks away, Burchhardt and Hitt were aware what a victory over a traditionally strong program means.
“It’s a big win,” said Burchhardt. “Bethlehem is always a big rivalry for us.”
“Even though we’re a smaller school, we still expect to be competitive with the Class AA teams,” Hitt said.