Three years ago, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake finished with double-digit victories for the first time. On Friday, the Spartans will play for a spot in the state Class B girls’ lacrosse championship game.
“I wouldn’t say surprised. I’d say hard-fought, well-earned,” said Burnt Hills senior co-captain Aubrey Kamppila. “We’ve got 10 seniors who have played together for four, five, six years. It’s like a dream come true.”
The Spartans’ dream season has included an incredible comeback against Shenendehowa on their senior night, a win against Niskayuna in the longest game in the history of the Section II lacrosse tournament and a regional victory over Somers that wasn’t decided until Lexie Ball’s save in the closing seconds.
That dramatic 12-11 success vaulted the Spartans into the state final four at SUNY-Cortland. The eight-year-old BH-BL varsity (14-5) will take on the state sportswriters’ No. 1-ranked team in Manhassett (Section VIII, 17-1) Friday morning at 9:30.
“Cortland has been the goal since March. It wasn’t the sectional title, and not the regionals. It was Cortland,” said Burnt Hills coach Jake McHerron. “It bothered them last year. We got up, 10-6, and the other team [John Jay-Cross River] got on a roll. It’s all about momentum. We’ve had a whole year to prepare.”
The Spartans prepared this week for a Manhasset team that hasn’t been in a close game since beating Garden City, 9-8, on April 30. That was among 12 straight wins for the Indians since they lost to Notre Dame Prep, Md., 6-5.
“We’re preparing for their speed in the midfield and their aggressiveness,” Kamppila said during a break at Tuesday’s practice. “We’ve seen game video of them. They swarm everywhere.”
Manhasset beat Wantagh for the Section VIII title, 15-8, before topping Sayville for the overall Long Island championship Saturday, 16-6. They were among Manhasset’s 16 double-digit scoring games.
“They have tradition. They’re No. 1 in the state and No. 4 in the country. They’ve got a great coach who I have known for years. They lost in the semis last year, and they have almost everyone back,” said McHerron. “They’re fast and athletic. We’ve seen them play, but we’re confident. We feel we can play.
“You’ve got to play the game. Once you get there, anything can happen. There are upsets all the time. Sometimes, teams make that mistake that they don’t normally make.”
Burnt Hills was in the underdog role against unbeaten Somers, and history was against the Spartans, as well. Twice before, BH-BL had faced Section I opponents in the regionals and lost, in a 2011 championship against Yorktown (18-8) and last year in the John Jay semifinal game (19-14).
“Last year, we had a lead and gave it up,” said Kamppila. “It was a little scary when they [Somers] were coming back, but we were determined to not let it happen again.”
Nicole Beardsley scored six goals to increase her school record to 86, Mackenzie LeVan notched four goals, including the 100th of her career, and Ball sealed the win with her save on a point-blank shot. That stop came after the Spartans saw an 11-7 lead slip away.
Burnt Hills soared past Minisink Valley in its regional semifinal, 18-4, when Beardsley, LeVan and Nakona Wolfe delivered four goals apiece.
“Everyone is starting to realize we are legit,” said Ball, a sophomore. “We are a good program.”
Ball, Kamppila and Beardsley are among nine players from the school’s field hockey team that reached the state semifinals last fall. The Spartans lost to Brighton in overtime, 1-0.
“We’ve given up a lot for this,” said Kamppila, a midfielder. “With the field hockey, there might have been a little bit of the ‘happy to be there,’ but we want to be there and keep going.”
“We’ve got to show up and play,” said Ball. “Win draws. Get possession and make sound passes. On defense, we need a ton of communication and we need to cause some turnovers.”
Lindsey Ronbeck, Julia Glynn and Kathryn Hallet will get plenty of attention from the BH-BL defensive group anchored by Kamppila, Katrina Little, Emily Clark, Ashley LaMere and Elle Muller. Ronbeck scored six goals against Sayville to push her season total to a team-leading 62. Hallet and Glynn both scored five goals against Wantagh.
Christian Brothers Academy (Section III, 17-3) and Victor (Section V, 18-2) will meet in Friday’s other Class B semifinal at 9:30. Saturday’s title game is set for 9:30.