It could have been the experience of playing as a group for years.
It could have been navigating a very tough stretch of Suburban Council games two-thirds of the way through the regular season.
Whatever it was, it helped Guilderland beat Albany, 4-1, Monday night at Colonie High School for the Section II Class AA boys’ soccer title.
“I’ve had this senior class since they were U12, when I first moved here. It’s poetic that they get a chance to win a sectional championship as they graduate,” said Dutchmen coach Mike Kinnally after Kledis Capollari scored a goal and assisted on scores by Connor Rubin and Keagan Ciaschetti.
The game couldn’t have started any better for the 15-4-0 Dutchmen, who will play back here Saturday at 1 against the Section III champion. Fayetteville-Manlius meets Baldwinsville tonight to decide the opponent.
Like it has done on many of its goals, the Dutchmen cashed in on its first free kick of the game, as Jack Hanlon flicked home Connor O’Brien’s restart 2:41 into the game.
“We’ve had trouble finishing, but our restarts have really been golden this year,” said Kinnally, whose team’s fourth goal also came from a restart. “We just work really hard up front. We didn’t get a tremendous amount of opportunities, but you’ve got to finish the ones you get, and tonight we did a great job of finishing.”
Connor Rubin made it 2-0 five minutes after Hanlon’s goal, but, to its credit, Albany went away from matching Guilderland’s direct counter-attacking style and took control of midfield with quick passing combinations.
The Falcons began spending more time in the Guilderland half of the field, and cut the lead in half when Erick Kwizera turned and hit a shot into the Dutchmen’s net with 1:55 left in the half.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with those early goals. But we came back, played hard and got the goal before the half,” said Albany coach Dave Weiss. “As the game wore on, they took over.”
Guilderland scored a key third goal 12:55 into the second half.
Ciaschetti stole the ball near the left sideline and found Capollari, who cut to the sideline, then beat the Falcons to the end line and served a low ball into the face of the Albany goal, where Ciaschetti finished the two-man play.
Capollari closed the scoring when he beat the Albany defense to the near post on another O’Brien free kick.
“When we got that third goal, they went down mentally a little. That picked things up for us. The scoreline tells it all,” Capollari said.
“They started pressing up a little, and we hit the counter attack,” said defender Noah Scott. “We finished well. We’re dangerous on corner kicks and free kicks.”
Guilderland went on a nine-game winning streak as the season neared the end, capping the run by knocking off three of the 2012 Class AA semifinalists in champion Bethlehem, runner-up Niskayuna and Shenendehowa.
“We think the Suburban Council is the best league in the state. You don’t win our league, you survive our league,” Kinnally said. “We’re undefeated when we score first. We beat Shen and Bethlehem and Nisky when we were playing our best and nine in a row. And we always scored first. So our confidence level, even though we don’t like to talk about it, but when we score first, we usually play pretty well.”
“After the Shen-Bethlehem-Nisky week, when we beat all of them, everyone was focused because we knew what we could do,” said Scott. “It really pumped us up.”
“The main thing coming into the season, to win a sectional title,” said Capollari. “Last year, we underachieved. This year, we achieved what we wanted and its the best feeling in the world.”