After clearing one major hurdle earlier in the week, the Schalmont boys’ soccer team stumbled on the final one Saturday, coming up short in a bid for a Section II Class B title.
Colonial Council rival, and reigning state champion, Ichabod Crane put a crushing end to the Sabres’ season with a 2-1 win in the sectional final at Colonie High School. Diminutive Diego Lezama scored the winning goal off a great through ball from Alex Niemann with 8:17 to play, putting the Riders into Wednesday’s regional semifinal at Schuylerville.
“They hit us really well on transition,” said Schalmont coach Jason Beck, whose team beat 2011 state champ Broadalbin-Perth in the semifinals. “They’re good at that, coming from the opposite side of the field. He was able to cut inside and get off a shot.
“That was a good goal. The first one we could have stopped, but the last goal was legit.”
Beck had his team take a little more of a defensive style after the Riders won their league meeting, keeping leading scorer Gino Rossi deeper in midfield to help control Ichabod Crane’s middies.
“Last time we played, they played the three of them in the middle, and we tried with two and had a little trouble. We knew we had to control the middle of the field in order to score on them,” said Beck.
“That’s why we switched to a one-man front and dropped three back.”
“We changed it up,” said Rossi, who has committed to Virginia Tech. “We wanted to play more defensively. The last time we played them, they went with three in the central midfield and we went with two. We tried to match up by going with three.”
The Riders had the better of play in the first half, cashing in when forward turned defender Anthony DeChance hit a 30-yarder from the right side that caught the inside of the net at the back post nine minutes in.
Ichabod Crane kept muscling Schalmont back into its own end, but couldn’t get a second goal.
“They pressured us really hard, right from the start, and we were unable to get our rhythm,” said Beck. “That’s pretty much what I’d say the whole theme of the game was. They knew they had to do that, and they were able to.”
Rossi did make the most of one of the Sabres’ chances, catching the Riders with a quickly taken free kick that tied the game less than a minute after DeChance’s goal.
“We knew going in that their keeper lined up the wall, so that far post was going to be open,” Beck said. “We just capitalized.”
“I just saw him [Ichabod Crane goalie Pierce Reilly] start going toward the [near] post, and their wall wasn’t ready. I just shot for the far post,” said Rossi.
“It amped us up even more,” said center defender Joe Wignot of the tying goal. “They’re a great team, and we’re trying to go right back at them. But it’s hard. They have a lot of experience.”
The familiarity of the teams led to frequent foul-induced stops.
“It hurts both of us,” said Beck. ”The referee has to blow the whistle to maintain control. We’re very similar in styles. Today, they had the egde. They were the better team.”
Lezama’s goal was caused in part by Ichabod Crane unbalancing the field.
“They switched at half, and overloaded one side,” said Wignot. “Other than that, the played the same style.”
Both Lezama and Heriberto Gomez were running down the left side when Niemann delivered a pass that found its way to Lezama.
The goal stunned the Sabres, who ran out of time to even the score.
“Both of our strenghts are in the middle,” said Beck. “They know us, and we know them.
“It was going to be a one-goal game, That’s what it ended up, it just wasn’t in our favor.”
“They have a great all-around team. If we’re going to go out, it might as well be to a team that could win another state title,” said Rossi.