Morgan Burchhardt and her Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake teammates know how fortunate they are. But they were not about to share.
“Teams dream of getting to the final. I know girls on my club team that have never even been to the final. I’m there year after year, winning it. It’s a great feeling,” Burchhardt said after scoring a goal and assisting on another in the second half Friday night, as the Lady Spartans beat Cobleskill-Richmondville, 3-0, for their ninth consecutive Section II Class A girls’ soccer championship.
“We have so much depth. We’re able to fill spots, even after people graduate. We’re able to build the program year after year.”
“This group doesn’t know anything else, but they do appreciate it,” said Burnt Hills coach Brian Bold, whose teams have won a sectional title in each of his nine years. “I told them before we left school that there are some great athletes who never get to play in a state
final, let alone win one. We have a great deal of respect for the teams we’ve played, and are thankful for what we’ve accomplished.”
The latest championship was typical of the others. Burnt Hills took away its opponent’s best option — in this case, 57-goal scorer Morgan Loder — and had the majority of possession and chances.
Sophomore Casey Doherty gave her team a quick spark when she scored 33 seconds into the game. The 11-7-1 Lady Spartans did everything but add to their lead as they misfired on several other chances in the first half.
“That first half, we worked, but we never tested their goalkeeper,” said Bold. “She never had to come up huge.
“I was pleased with how we were playing. We just had to make a few little changes.”
One thing that required no tinkering was the play of center backs Michaela Hitt and Angie Giorgio, who played so well in combination with outside backs Kylee Babcock and Elle Mueller and the midfielders that Loder managed one, long-range, harmless shot.
“Angie and Michaela Hitt played great. I thought those two just absolutely shut her down,” said Bold.
“We did what we do against other teams, just play our game,” said Giorgio as she held her champions patch. “This never gets old. It just keeps getting better every year. But we don’t take if for granted.”
“We just wanted to limit the number of times she [Loder] got the ball,” said Hitt. “The four of us have really come together as a unit.”
“No one has played her that well, except maybe Schalmont.” said Lady Bulldogs coach John Quimby of the defensive effort on Loder. “The experience they get playing against Suburban Council teams all year really showed.”
Still, Burnt Hills needed more offense to feel relieved.
Burchhardt came through moments after going to the bench, bloodied by an elbow.
First, she hit a perfect ball from the right side to the back post, where junior Meghan Malone was waiting to head it home. Then Burchhardt unleashed a blast that found net and ended the night for the majority of both team’s starters with 13:29 to play.
“I talked to Morgan about just playing more simple,” said Bold, whose team posted its seventh straight championship game shutout. “Then she finds Meghan on the serve, then she hits an absolute rocket that I don’t think the ’keeper ever saw.”
Burnt Hills will host the Section III champion Tuesday in a regional final, likely back here.
“My freshman year, I had no idea what this even meant,” said Burchhardt. “My sophomore year, I was just here for fun. Junior year, I got more into it. This year, it means a lot more, being a senior. The games mean a lot more to you. You play with a lot of heart.”
Classmate Hitt echoed the sentiment.
“I don’t know if I fully appreciate it yet, but I’m sure I will,” she said. “How many players get to win sectional titles every year?”
NISKAYUNA, SARATOGA WIN
SCHUYLERVILLE — Rachel Walsh scored off a Sophia Constantine free kick in the third minute of the first overtime, and Niskayuna held off Bethlehem, 1-0, in a Class AA girls semifinal.
Kristen Hartlage had to make only four saves over the 100 minutes of play to register the shutout for 15-3-0 Niskayuna, the No. 2 seed.
Ellery Biano scored in the second half as fifth-seeded Saratoga edged top-seeded and defending champion Guilderland. 1-0, in the other “A” semi.
Niskayuna and 12-6-1 Saratoga will play for the title Wednesday at 6:30 at Stillwater.