Shenendehowa never got that second goal after Anna Bottino connected early in Sunday’s Section II Class A field hockey final against Niskayuna.
A relentless pursuit of it, though, helped the Lady Plainsmen add to their collection of championships with a 1-0 victory.
“We knew we had to keep pushing and try to get more,” Shenendehowa senior Anna Branch said after another one-goal contest between the Suburban Council teams. “Niskayuna is a tough. Once we got the goal, we knew we had to keep the ball in our end.”
Shenendehowa hit the gas following Bottino’s tally 8:06 in, applying heavy pressure while rarely allowing Niskayuna to counter in its first win over the Silver Warriors in six games. One of those setbacks was in the large-school final a year ago, when Niskayuna prevailed in overtime, 1-0.
“We had a bitter taste from last year. We wanted it so bad,” said Bottino, one of Shenendehowa’s 12 seniors. “It seems like such a long time coming. It feels great to win against a skilled team like that.”
Shenendehowa (No. 2 seed, 17-2) was the better team on the Schuylerville High School turf. The Lady Plainsmen dominated the first half and controlled much of the second in what was their third title-winning effort in four years, and fourth since 2008.
“This feels amazing to finally get them,” said Branch. “They’ve always been a big rival.”
Branch had plenty to do with the outcome, with her stellar one-on-one play against standout Niskayuna midfielder Carrie Hanks. While the all-state playmaker had several long drives, she factored little inside the circle.
“Carrie was never open,” said Shenendehowa coach Jeanne Frevola. “She [Branch] stayed with her the whole game. I told her before the game, ‘If she goes off the field, you go with her.’ ”
Hanks assisted on Anna Torri’s game-winning goal in last year’s title game. The Maryland-bound senior also set up late goals by Jackie O’Brien and Mia DiRienzo in Niskayuna’s 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Shenendehowa this season.
“After those two games, we knew we had to do something,” said Branch, who is a teammate of Hanks on the ADK club team. “Coach said that would be my contribution. I had to stay with her.”
Hanks provided Niskayuna (No. 1 seed, 15-3) with its best scoring opportunity in the second half, when she handled an insert feed from Ali Wells up top on a penalty corner, and unleashed a hard shot with 11:50 left. Melissa Nealon made a save, and while players from both teams scrambled, Shenendehowa cleared the ball.
“It’s a tough road to battle back against a team like that,” said Niskayuna coach Alison Broomhead.
Shenendehowa allowed only six shots while unleashing 19, and the Lady Plainsmen ended with an 11-5 advantage in penalty corners.
Bottino finished off the first of those corners on a backhand swipe, giving her a goal in each of Shenendehowa’s three postseason wins.
“It’s not something you plan,” Bottino said of her backhand. “I just wanted to get it in, and it proved to be pretty important. It carried us through the game.”
Bottino started the key corner with an insert pass to Erin Buckley at the top of the circle, and Buckley knocked the ball toward the cage.
“I made the initial save,” said Niskayuna netminder Emily King. “I was on the ground, and a defender and an offensive player were standing there. She [Bottino] went around her.”
Shenendehowa continued its assault with six more corners before the first half was through. King made a pair of quality saves late in the half, including a diving stop on a drive from Buckley.
“We worked for hours on our corners,” said Frevola. “I’m happy with the way we kept the pressure on.”
“They had intensity. They won 50-50 balls. They had crisp passes,” said Broomhead. “In the first half, we weren’t playing up to our potential, and it cost us.”
King was Niskayuna’s star performer, making six saves in the first half and seven in the second.
“She made some amazing saves and some amazing clears,” Broomhead said of the senior. “She kept us in the game.”
Nealon made three saves for her 14th shutout and second of the playoffs. Shenendehowa’s title-game wins in 2010 and 2011 came against Niskayuna, and both were decided in overtime.
Shenendehowa will meet Fayetteville-Manlius (Section III, 15-1-2) in a regional game Saturday at 4 at Cicero-North Syracuse.
Elise Zwicklbauer had another multiple-goal game, and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake defense threw another zero on the board.
This time, the efforts at both ends propelled the Spartans to a Section II championship.
“Coach said in the beginning of the season I was going to be a big part of our team, and I didn't live up to that,” Zwicklbauer said after Burnt Hills' 4-0 Class B triumph over South Glens Falls. “I was inconsistent. I had to step up.”
Zwicklbauer notched three goals for the second time in three tournament outings, and the Spartans blanked the Bulldogs after doing the same against Johnstown in the semifinals and Scotia-Glenville in the quarterfinals.
“The conversation we had before the game was we had the better team. We had the better players, but we had to show up,” said BH-BL coach Kelly Vroomnan. "We had to play the game, and not give them the ball at all."
South Glens Falls (No. 1 seed, 14-5) managed just one shot on goal, while Burnt Hills (No. 2, 13-6) piled up 21. Zwicklbauer made good on two of them early in the first half, and the sophomore forward completed her hat trick with a successful penalty stroke with 1:34 left.
Zwicklbauer also scored three goals in a 4-0 win over Scotia-Glenville, and delivered two in BH-BL’s 3-0 victory over Johnstown, before her impact performance Sunday helped the Spartans claim their second straight title and third in seven years.
“We knew she had it in her. She was a little timid. Now she's got that out of her system,” said Vrooman, who saw Zwicklbauer score three regular-season goals. “She’s matured. Now she’s playing for us, and it's great.”
Ashley LaMere, Lexi Ball, Aubrey Kamppila and Meghan Largo anchored a great defensive stand by the Spartans.
“All throughout the tournament, coach said they can’t win if they don't score,” said LaMere, a junior defender. “We were a wall.”
“Support is what makes our defense,” said Zwicklbauer. “If you get beat, someone is there.”
The Spartans consistently followed up defensive stops with passes the other way, often toward the sidelines, and applied heavy pressure in a scene similar to their previous playoff games.
Zwicklbauer scored on an assist from Nicole Beardsley 5:27 in to complete a penalty corner. Zwicklbauer finished off a fast break with 18:28 left in the first half after handling a feed from Julia LeVan. That goal came soon after Brittany Ryan made a pad save on the Bulldogs’ only clean shot.
Taylor Safford made it 3-0 to finish off another corner with 29 seconds remaining in the opening half, with Beardsley picking up her second assist.
“Coming from a middle school program where we didn't win any games to this, it feels great,” said LaMere. "We’ve made a lot of progress."
Burnt Hills will meet East Syracuse-Minoa (15-3, Section III) in a regional game Saturday at noon at Cicero-North Syracuse.
Caytlyn Springer scored in the first half, Allyson Burdick connected in the second and Hoosick Falls avenged last year’s Class C title-game loss to Greenwich with a 2-0 victory.
Greenwich (No. 2, 16-3) was denied its fifth consecutive championship. The Witches beat the Panthers (No. 1, 19-0) in last year's final, 1-0, in strokes.
Hoosick Falls won its last title (Class CC) in 2010, but bowed to the Witches in the Class C-CC playoff that followed, 2-1 in overtime.