A young Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey player gave a silent fist pump after a series of conditioning drills late in Monday’s season-opening practice.
She thought the Spartans were through as dusk settled in. Soon after, though, Spartans coach Kelly Vrooman was calling for another series of sprints.
“You can’t win with sticks alone,” said Vrooman. “When you play the Shenendehowas, Saratogas and Columbias, you’ve got to have fitness.”
Vrooman chuckled a bit when retelling the story about her unknowing Spartan, yet is no-nonsense on the field and does work her players hard. She hinted that this season there may even be an extra sprint after every practice, maybe even two. She believes she has a group capable of achieving great things, and wants to give them as much ammunition to work with as possible.
Even if it hurts.
“We have such a small number of players,” said junior forward Julia LeVan. “Coach says our conditioning will have to be better than the other teams.”
“We have to have the endurance if we’re going to compete with Shenendehowa and Saratoga,” added junior forward Elise Zwicklbauer.
The objective is to stay strong from start to finish. Keep pushing for a goal and keep defending until there’s no time left, like last year’s team did when it battled tough in the Class A-dominated Suburban Council and followed with a brilliant run to the state Class B semifinals.
“We’re used to having a small team. One of the things we depend on is conditioning,” said junior midfielder Carly Grant. “Our coaches are focused on how conditioned we are.”
Nine seniors graduated from the Spartans’ first state semifinal team since 1987, leaving Vrooman with a young and eager mix led by the junior cast of goalie Brittany Ryan, 2013 goal-scoring leader Zwicklbauer, Grant, Lexie Ball and LeVan.
“I think we can get as far as last year. We know what we’re up against,” said Grant, who, as a veteran midfielder, will play a key role in transition. “It’s mostly just mental. We lost a lot, and everyone was prepared for it. It’s our turn to step up.”
Zwicklbauer did that in a big way with eight goals in the Section II tournament after netting just three during the Spartans’ 10-6 regular season. Zwicklbauer’s three goals lifted BH-BL past South Glens Falls, 4-0, in the sectional final, and she assisted on Nicole Beardsley’s double-overtime goal when BH-BL edged East Syracuse-Minoa in a 1-0 regional game.
“Last year, I realized that even though you’re not an older player and not a team captain, you can play a part. I realized it could be me,” said Zwicklbauer. “I stepped up as a younger player, and I think our young group will do it this year.
“It may not be pretty right off, but we’ve got a lot of quality. “We lost, but we still have.”
“We lost a lot. So did everyone else,” said Vrooman. “I like what I have back and I like our younger girls. We’re going to be strong.”
Burnt Hills has big holes to fill with the loss of Suburban Council all-stars Beardsley and Aubrey Kamppila up front, Maghan Largo at midfield and Ashley LaMere in back. The group helped BH-BL win the Section II title in 2012 before last year’s repeat and state tourney run that ended with a 1-0 overtime loss to Brighton.
“I told my team that last year’s final-four team was a little inexperienced, the coaches and the players. If we had that mental toughness, it could have been better,” said Vrooman. “That’s something we’re going to work on. Staying focused. You’ve got to have the physical fitness, and you’ve got to have the mental piece, too.”
Harvey joins Cadets
Dakota Harvey has transferred from Saratoga High School to Albany Academy after a breakout sophomore season with the Blue Streaks’ football team.
Harvey led Saratoga with 1,010 rushing yards, averaging 10.4 yards per carry, and produced 10 of his 13 touchdowns via the run. The Class AA Empire Division first-teamer also scored on a reception, an interception and a 96-yard kickoff return.
Harvey also excelled as a defensive end.
Radz, Lott selected
Zach Radz of Troy and Selena Lott of Columbia were selected to all-tournament teams at the recent Basketball Coaches Association of New York Summer Hoops Fest in Johnson City.
Radz, a Daily Gazette All-Area second-team pick, and Lott led their Adirondack teams to semifinal appearances. Both Adirondack teams lost to Hudson Valley in the semis.
The Hudson Valley boys and Suffolk girls won the tournament championships.
BH rowers move on
Eight members of the Burnt Hills Rowing Association’s senior class of 15 will compete in the sport at the collegiate level.
The group includes Sam Berry and Christine Gold, who are headed to Clarkson University, and Anne Rittscher and Erin Shaginaw, who have signed on with Geneseo College. Lauren Holt is bound for Binghamton University, Erin Clark is attending Bucknell University, Jackie Baumann is going to Indiana University and James Martin is going to Rochester Institute of Technology.
Johns to Bulldog HOF
Rich Johns, a standout tennis player and coach, will be among six individuals inducted into the South High Bulldog Pride Hall of Fame Oct. 4 at the Queensbury Hotel.
Johns went undefeated in his four seasons at South Glens Falls High School and won a pair of Section II titles before his stellar collegiate career at SUNY-Adirondack and SUNY-Potsdam. He is a hall of fame member at each of those institutions.
Johns coached girls’ and boys’ tennis teams at Saratoga High School during a 36-year run that ended in 2010. His girls secured 17 Suburban Council and nine Section II championships, and put together an 85-match win streak at one point.
Johns had a no-cut policy as a coach, and was recognized for that in 2009 when he was presented the USTA’s National Starfish Award.
He is the founder of the “Act With Respect Always” program which stresses the importance of honesty, empathy, kindness and courage.
Johns will be joined in the Pride’s eighth induction class by three-sport star Wayne “Beanie” Bruce, a fellow 1968 South Glens Falls graduate, as well as John Carayiannis,
Megan Leggett, Wilma Patton and Stewart “Stew” Stearns.