If his team’s latest frustrating loss in the state semifinals bothered him, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ soccer coach Brian Bold did his best to not show it.
“Did I think we were going to exit in the state semis, 3-0? No,” he said after the Lady Spartans fell to Section VIII champ Garden City, 3-0, in Saturday’s Class A state semi at Tompkins-Cortland Community College. “We came across a team that’s on fire right now. I don’t see how they don’t win this whole thing.”
Restarts did Burnt Hills in, as Haley O’Hanlon scored all three goals for Garden City, heading home a first-half corner kick from Caroline Beaty, hooking in her own corner in the 63rd minute and putting home a 30-yard free kick with just under 11 minutes remaining.
Garden City put Burnt Hills under pressure from the beginning, but the nine-time-running Section II champs managed to keep the ball out of the net, surviving a wave of restarts from the Trojans. Jenna Retell headed away a well-taken corner kick from the left side in the ninth minute, and the Lady Spartans escaped a dangerous free kick from the right-hand edge of the box.
The extended period of pressure paid off for Garden City when the Trojans converted a corner kick with 6:58 left in the half, as O’Hanlon got above the Burnt Hills defense and headed home Beaty’s corner. The Trojans knocked in another corner four minutes later, but the goal was negated by a foul against the Long Island champions.
“The first one, she shouldn’t have gotten above us, but we just stood there,” said center back Michaela Hitt. “We practice [against] that, but you can’t just watch her.”
Burnt Hills got off the field at the break down only one goal, despite being on the defensive for most of the first 40 minutes.
“They don’t play boom ball. They play very direct smashmouth soccer,” said Bold. “When they played a ball, every kid was moving. It was direct to a space, and they knew where it was going to be. They had four kids flying off the ball.
“At first, I thought we were a little flat, but they were just coming at us with fury.”
The Trojans also were first to nearly every loose ball, bottling the Lady Spartans up in their own defensive end. Burnt Hills did not have a shot on goal for the entire 80 minutes.
“We talked at halftime about stepping up and just winning 50-50 balls,” said Bold. “That doesn’t take talent. I thought Jenna [Retell], Angie [Giorgio], Michaela and Julia [Retell], at times, those seniors really stepped up. They didn’t want it to end. I thought they generated a little more in the midfield so we could have the ball more.”
“We didn’t really get into trouble until we gave up the goal,” said senior forward Morgan Burchhardt, who played in her third state semi. “We lost the momentum. It happened [in the regional semifinals] against Jamesville-DeWitt, but we were able to pull it back.
“This just wasn’t our game. It happens.”
“It was tough to come into halftime trailing, 1-0, but we tried to save it,” said Giorgio, who teamed with Hitt in the middle of the back four. “We gave it our all.”
Bold tried everything to slow the Trojans and spark his team, and even changed goalkeepers at the half, putting in sophomore Haley Schultz and removing 11th-grader Erin Petrillose.
“They were putting huge balls in the box, and I figured we had better chances with Schultz, with her reach and her wing span,” Bold said. “It wasn’t anything Erin did wrong. We just figured it would help.”
But both second-half goals by O’Hanlon went over Schultz and under the crossbar.
Bold also dropped Burchhardt more into midfield in an effort to shake Garden City defender Kerry Defelise, and he took out central midfield Meghan Malone for the last 15:30 of the first half.
“We took her [Malone] out to get her head together and talk to her a little bit,” said Bold. “Meghan didn’t have her best game today. Our big guns didn’t show up today. They [Garden City] did a great job. They man-marked Morgan out of the game.”
“They were hard to defend,” said Hitt. “They had a plan. They were good.
“Eventually, they’re probably going to get one. You can’t hold them off forever. Then we got down there, and I knew we were going to get one. It’s not like I didn’t believe in us.”
This was the seventh time in the nine years Bold has been head coach that Burnt Hills has reached the state semis. But since getting to the championship game his first two years — 2005 and 2006 — the Lady Spartans have known nothing but frustration in this game.
Last year, the Lady Spartans didn’t make it out of the regional round, but made up for that by advancing past Section III champ Jamesville DeWitt in the regional semifinals in the penalty-kick tiebreaker after the teams played to a 2-2 draw through regulation and overtime.
Burnt Hills, which finished 12-8-2, followed that with a 5-0 victory over Section VII’s Peru in the regional final to get to the state semis.
“I want to focus on what we did to get here,” said Bold after his team huddled for the final time this season. “At the beginning of the year, people were questioning us, how were we going to do. We put ourselves together and made a good run. I think they realized they had a good run, and we caught a good team playing well.”
“The six seniors that are not going to play any more at BH, I’m going to miss them greatly. They mean so much more to me than being athletes.
“Its been a great run, and I really enjoyed these kids. I’m more upset that Monday, we don’t get to practice.”