That’s what defense looks like in the state semifinals.
It was a hard way to learn the lesson, but the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ lacrosse team took it in stride in their 9-3 loss to Section VIII’s Manhasset, chalking it up to a learning experience and one more building block for the program.
The Spartans reached the state semis for the first time, just three seasons after their first double-digit victory count, and after Friday’s loss they were talking about next year.
“This is just a building block. We’re going to be in the state finals next year and, hopefully, win states,” said sophomore goalkeeper Lexie Ball. “That’s the overall goal.”
Ball was outstanding in the second half, when she made nine of her 13 saves.
Generating offense of their own proved challenging for the Spartans, as the Indians converged quickly on the ball and made it difficult just to advance the ball out of the defensive end.
“I’ve never seen [that from] any team,” said senior attack Christina Krowel. “No team has ever had as great a double as their team, so that’s awesome on their part. They’re an awesome team, so if we were to lose to anyone, I’m glad it’s them. We played the best we can against them.”
Krowel, an all-tournament selection, scored all three of the Spartans’ goals. She almost had another, hitting the post early in the second half.
“They played a different game than we’re used to, so we couldn’t do a lot of our plays on them, so we just relied on fast breaks to start,” she said. “Every time someone was open, we tried to pass it in there and get a goal.”
Burnt Hills coach Jake McHerron likened the Indians’ defense to that of a collegiate team.
“You [see it] at the advanced levels, at college. In high school, in Class B, no,” he said. “They swarm incredibly well. You have to be patient, you have to be poised enough not to run to the sideline where the extra defender is and actually move the ball back through them.”
After the Indians (18-2) jumped out to a 2-0 lead 5:35 into the game, Krowel took a feed from Emily Ankabrandt — the recipient of the Good Sport Award — and finished to pull the Spartans (14-6) within a goal with 16:09 left in the half.
Then Manhasset’s leading scorer, Lindsey Ronbeck, showed up in a big way. She scored three goals in the game, all of them in the last 15:22 of the first half. Her first two came within 49 seconds of each other and started a 5-0 Indians’ run. Her last came with 4:39 left in the half to cap that run, pushing her season total to 65.
Also during that run, she won four draws.
The Indians won six of the nine draws in the first half and eight of 14 in the game.
The Spartans won the opening draw of the second half, though, and scored 26 seconds in — Krowel from Nicole Beardsley — to pull within five at 7-2.
“I think at the beginning, when you’re playing at this level and playing such a great team as Manhasset, I think it’s all about possession,” McHerron said. “I think that was a big key. We got the draw in the second half, right away. We regrouped at halftime. It’s tough when you fall behind early to get back into it, but they refocused. They did exactly what we’ve done all year and competed hard all the way to the end, so you can’t ask for anything more.”
Ball said she challenged herself to see the ball better, and that resulted in several frustrated Indians on the attack. Most notably, after one of Ball’s passes was intercepted by Manhasset’s Jacklyn D’Alleva, Ball had to race back to the goal and get ready for D’Alleva’s one-on-one breakaway, and then she made the save. She also stopped four free-position shots.
She kept the Indians in check in the second half, but the Spartans couldn’t mount a comeback against that swarming defense. Manhasset will play for the title this morning against Section V champ Victor.
The Burnt Hills girls walked off the field disappointed with the loss, but talking about what they’d gained, as players and as a program.
“I’m going to play in college, and if you’re going to play in college, you’ve got to face teams like this,” Ball said. “You’ve got to make it to the next level. This is what’s going to make, not only myself better, but also my team better, as players.”
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 1 2 — 3
Manhasset 7 2 — 9
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake scoring: Christina Krowel 3-0, Emily Ankabrandt 0-1, Nicole Beardsley 0-1. Manhasset scoring: Lindsey Ronbeck 3-1, Julia Glynn 2-1, Abby Kucharczyk 2-0, Jenny Cook 1-0, Alexandra Pidedjian 1-0, Emily Koufakis 0-1.
Goalkeepers: Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Lexie Ball, 13 saves. Manhasset, Erin Coleman, 3 saves.