It was a matter of ball possession.
In the first half of Tuesday’s lacrosse game with Shenendehowa, Niskayuna didn’t have it enough.
“Everything under the sun was happening. Calls, faceoffs, ground balls, nothing was going our way,” said Silver Warriors coach Mike Vorgang. “In the Ballston Spa game, it was the same thing.”
Niskayuna rallied in the second half to beat stubborn Ballston Spa last week, and used the same formula to turn back the tough Plainsmen, 12-10, and remain unbeaten in the Suburban Council with one game to go.
The Silver Warriors pulled away from a 5-5 third-quarter tie with four unanswered goals, and Mike D’Amario had a hat trick in the final frame for the New York State Sportswriters Association’s new No. 1-ranked Class A team.
“It gets us a little fired up after a slow first half,” said D’Amario, a senior attackman who finished with five goals and two assists. “We come out with some burn in our belly. We picked it up.”
Faceoff specialist Dylan Pantalone and his cast of wings picked the ball up plenty of times in the game-changing third quarter, which ended on two goals by Ryan Lawson and single tallies by Sam Kaplan and Reed Avveduti.
“We were hitting shots. I was winning faceoffs. We had the full package in the third quarter,” said Pantalone, a sophomore. “We were much better in the third quarter than in the first half.
“We were getting ground balls. We were working harder . . . We just came together.”
“They possessed the ball,” said Shenendehowa coach Jason Gifford. “They got comfortable. They got to see what we were doing.”
Niskayuna (12-0, 14-1) used a 4-1 third-quarter run to overcome a 5-4 halftime deficit Thursday at Ballston Spa in what would be a 12-8 victory. Niskayuna outscored Shenendehowa (10-3, 11-5) in the third period Tuesday, 5-2, to go up, 9-5. D’Amario’s final goal gave the Silver Warriors a 12-7 lead with 4:15 left.
“We’ve been having rough first halves, and then exploding in the third quarter. Then we slow down again,” said Pantalone. “We want to have four good quarters. I think we’ll be doing a lot of conditioning so we can do that.”
Pantalone and wings John Prendergast, Jack Lennon, Jack Burns, Aidan O’Brien and Lawson worked for a 6-2 faceoff advantage in the game-changing third quarter.
“Coach [assistant Chris DeLano] gave me a good talking to at the half,” said Pantalone, who missed the early part of the season while recovering from a broken wrist. “I got excited, and I had great wing play.”
“Every big game we’ve had this year, he’s crushed it in the third and fourth quarter,” DeLano said of Pantalone.
Shenendehowa tied the game at 4-4 on a goal by Kyle Marr and at 5-5 on another by Pat Coll. Kaplan gave Niskayuna the lead for good with 5:19 left in the third when he ran from behind the cage and beat Ben Robbins. Lawson’s goal with eight seconds left in the quarter made it 9-5.
“Possession was the difference in the game,” said D’Amario. “Dylan broke his wrist before the season and he’s been able to fight his way back. He’s been a big plus for us. The kid’s got grit.”
Peter Sacks scored the game’s final three goals, and topped the Plainsmen with four.
“You have to respect the fact that they never gave up,” said D’Amario. “Hat’s off to them. Whether they’re down by five goals or one goal, they fight hard.”
Marr scored one of his three goals with 13 seconds left in the first half to get Shenendehowa within 4-3. The Plainsmen worked the ball for long stretches throughout the opening half, which included two pipe shots on their part.
“They [Shenendehowa] were trying to change the matchups on us. Their style is deliberate, and if something doesn’t go, they’ll reset and try it again,” said DeLano. “That’s why it looked like they were stalling. They were just running their plays.”
Niskayuna has won 10 straight games since an 8-7 loss to Darien, Conn. The streak includes a 17-7 victory at Shenendehowa late last month, and has Niskayuna in line for the top Section II tournament seed.
Shenendehowa 1 2 2 5 — 10
Niskayuna 3 1 5 3 — 12
Shenendehowa scoring: Pete Sacks 4-0, Brian Nelsen 1-1, Kyle Marr 3-0, Pat Coll 1-0, Owen Putnam 1-0. Niskayuna scoring: Mike D’Amario 5-2, Ryan Lawson 2-1, Sam Kaplan 2-1, Reed Avveduti 2-0, Aidan O’Brien 1-1, Lu Quinn 0-1.
Goalkeepers: Shenendehowa, Ben Robbins, 4 saves. Niskayuna, Nick Testa, 12 saves.