Niskayuna girls’ soccer coach Bryce Colby has one of the most dangerous scorers in Section II in Meghan Doyle.
But he knows it will be his defense that will play a large role in determining how far his team will go in the postseason.
Thursday’s 1-0 win over Suburban Council North Division rival Shaker gave Colby many reasons to feel good about his team’s chances in the upcoming Class AA tournament. But the work of his three defenders brought special praise.
“They played very well, and they play so well as a unit,” Colby said of outside defenders Sophia Constantine and Olivia Golden, and central defender Stephanie Tate. “It was nice to win a game with a shutout, especially a 1-0 game.”
“We were pretty solid in the back today,” said Tate. “We play really well together, and we have a stopper that comes back to help.”
“It’s good to know we can win a game 1-0,” said Doyle who just missed on a couple of good chances. “In sectionals, the games get closer. It’s always more of a fight.”
“The second time through the schedule is so tough,” said Colby. “Everyone is gearing up for sectionals. They beat us, 3-1, early in the season. Now we come back and beat them.”
The Lady Warriors got a goal from sophomore Marika Contompasis 12 minutes into the game, and it looked like more were coming as Niskayuna’s players on the right flank, particularly Contompasis and Kelly Hartledge, frequently got enough time and space to send balls to the back post.
“It was almost like a goal was coming,” Colby said.
But the game’s only goal came from the middle of the field, as Hannah Munro played a perfect through ball to space in front of Contompasis, who lifted a shot over Shaker goalkeeper Julia
Colby was quick to point out the role of another player in the scoring play.
“I know Hannah got the assist for the great pass, and Marika gets credit for the goal, but the player who created that goal was Kelly Hartledge,” said Colby, whose team went to 12-2-0 with the win, “She ran wide, and pulled a defender with her. That opened space for Hannah to play that ball for Marika to run on to. There was no cover from her [Hartledge’s] defender.
“If she moves in towards the middle, now you’re dealing with two defenders and space is tight.
“She’s not going to get an assist, but Kelly made that goal with her run.”
The latest goal from Contompasis was also a good sign, according to Colby.
“We needed to find that player who could play with Meghan up front,” Colby said. “Marika’s really been a key.
“It’s still a work in progress. Marika’s still learning where Meghan likes the ball to be played, whether Meghan is going to shoot or lay the ball off.
“When you have one very good player up top, that’s great. When you have two, it creates that many more problems for the defense.”
“They have two dynamic offensive weapons, so you’ve got to make sure on defense,” said Shaker coach Tara O’Keefe, whose team is looking to lock up one of the top four seeds for the “AA” playoffs. “Our defense and midfield played great. We’ve got to find a way to score goals.”
Niskayuna finishes the season with games against Shenendehowa and Burnt Hills, two other teams with strong postseason histories.
“Those are going to be important games. They’ll help us get ready for sectionals,” Tate said.
“It prepares you, because those games are kind of like sectionals,” said Doyle.