Elise Zwicklbauer took a spill, then everything changed in Tuesday’s Section II Class B semifinal field hockey game with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Johnstown.
“You get that rush after you get the first goal,” Zwicklbauer said after her impact performance in the Spartans’ 3-0 win. “The stress is gone, and you start to have fun. That’s when things start to happen.”
Zwicklbauer made things happen for the second time in the tournament, notching two goals, including the ice-breaker on a penalty stroke, to lead the Spartans into another championship game.
The sophomore forward delivered her two goals less than two minutes apart in the second half to boost her playoff total to five, Nicole Beardsley padded the Spartans’ lead and their defense logged a third consecutive shutout.
“I’m thinking it’s going to happen eventually. We’re pounding and pounding,” said Burnt Hills coach Kelly Vrooman. “It was just persistence.”
Burnt Hills (No. 2 seed, 12-6) had momentum on its side but nothing on the scoreboard to show for it until Zwicklbauer made a strong run toward the Johnstown cage. A tackle from behind took the sophomore down as she bore in on Lady Bills’ netminder Kristin Wright, and she was awarded a penalty stoke with 21:57 left in the second half.
“I was kind of angry. They pushed me around a little bit,” said Zwicklbauer. “I wanted that goal right there.”
Zwicklbauer connected with a drive just inside the left post, and made it 2-0 with 20 minutes to go, boosting her season goal total to eight. She scored the first three goals when Burnt Hills knocked off Scotia-Glenville, 4-0, in last week’s quarterfinal.
“We were all a little nervous. We have a history with Johnstown,” said BH-BL senior tri-captain Aubrey Kamppila. “As soon as Elise got that stroke, we got all excited. We knew we could keep going.”
As the Spartans came on offensively, their defense, anchored by Lexie Ball, Ashley LaMere and Sarah Ryan, continued to give the Lady Bills fits.
Johnstown (No. 3 seed, 12-6) failed to generate a shot on goal in the first half, and Shauna Ryan made saves on the two shots she faced over the final 30 minutes.
“I brought my defense together before the game and told them, ‘Johnstown can’t win if they don’t score,’ ” said Vrooman.
Burnt Hills blanked Guilderland in its final Suburban Council game before keeping Scotia-Glenville and Johnstown off the board. Burnt Hills also pinned Johnstown down in last year’s Class B title game, winning, 3-1, after losing to the Lady Bills in the 2011 and 2010 semifinals.
“Our defense has had its ups and downs, but the last few games, they’ve taken off,” said Kamppila. “Our defense has been solid. It’s been a group effort.”
The second and third Burnt Hills goals were that, too, both of them coming on penalty corners.
Zwicklebauer inserted the ball to Kamppila at the top of the circle to set the stage for the second goal. Kamppila drilled the ball toward the cage, and Danielle Kempf redirected it. Wright made a save and Zwicklbauer pounced on the rebound and scored from close range.
“They score on a stroke, and they score again two minutes later. The heads go down and then they go down a little more,” said Johnstown coach Tracy Ringer. “It’s hard to recover from that.”
“Elise played hard and didn’t back down,” said Vrooman. “When she scored the second goal, that sealed it for us.”
Zwicklbauer again found Kamppila up top with an insert pass, and Beardsley redirected a drive from Kamppila past Wright with 14:25 remaining.
Burnt Hills had a 12-2 advantage in penalty corners. Wright made seven saves.
“We regroup and we reload for next season,” said Ringer.
Burnt Hills will take on South Glens Falls in Sunday’s title game at noon at Schuylerville. The Bulldogs (No. 1 seed, 14-4) posted a 1-0 semifinal win over Glens Falls (No. 4 seed, 9-9).
“Going in, I’m confident,” said Vrooman. “They know what it takes. They know what it feels like. Winning it a second time would be great.”
Emily Sharpe scored on an assist from Lauren Yakush, and South Glens Falls netminder Michaela Regner stopped a breakaway in the second half for the last of her four saves. The Bulldogs are looking to add a first sectional flag to the Foothills Council title they won for the first time in 24 years.