The last thing the Shenendehowa boys’ soccer team wanted to do Tuesday was to chase Ballston Spa around for 80 minutes.
So the Plainsmen quickly recovered from an early deficit, took a one-goal lead at the half and dominated the final 40 minutes to beat the Scotties, 6-1, in their season opener.
“It was hot when I got here, then you run around a little and your lungs kind of get used to it,” said Shenendehowa co-captain Tucker Marvin, who had a goal and an assist in the sweltering conditions. “It was important to get that goal back. It’s a lot more tiring chasing the ball when you’re behind.”
Ballston Spa’s talented junior striker Connor DeFilippis gave the Plainsmen a cold slap in the face by scoring 5:20 into the game. DeFilippis’ header beat the Shenendehowa defense on the Scotties’ first meaningful trip over the midfield line.
“It happens. The main point of coming back is you have to play your own game and stay composed,” said senior Dante Cilento, who scored with less than seven minutes to play in the first half to give Shenendehowa the lead for good. “We had just got back to basics.”
Cilento, Kyle Clemens, Miles Burbank and Kyle Pfaff had second-half goals as the Plainsmen opened a first week that got busier when a game with Niskayuna was moved to this Saturday.
“I’d rather have a tough schedule early so you don’t get complacent,” said Shenendehowa coach Jonathan Bain, whose team plays at Burnt Hills on Thursday. “It also gives us a chance to get match-fit.”
Fitness seemed to come into play in the second half, as Ballston Spa’s legs had a little less spring in the final 30 minutes, allowing Shenendehowa to maintain or win possession.
“After that first goal, obviously, we had to pick it up a little bit,” said Marvin, who scored the first Plainsmen goal and nearly gave his team the lead when he smacked a free kick off the crossbar. “Once my goal went in and we got to 2-1, 3-1, I think the floodgates opened a little.”
With the 90-degree temperature and oppressive humidity, the referees called for short breaks midway through each half.
“Those breaks helped,” said Cilento.
But the stoppages didn’t help Ballston Spa enough.
“We missed some chances, and we broke down defensively,” said Scotties coach Garry Preece, whose team conceded three corner kicks in the first three minutes of the game, then got the goal from DeFilippis.
“DeFilippis and Anders Trestick played well,” said Preece. “They didn’t lose possession.
“We’ve just got to get tighter. We lost big our first game last year, then got stronger.”
Cilento liked what he saw from his view in the attacking third of the field.
“We kept the ball up high, so the forwards didn’t have to track back a lot,” he said. “We were able to keep it up top and make their defense work.
“Scoring the third goal and taking control of the game helped.”
“I thought the finishing was decent,” said Bain. “I thought the combination play among the strikers in the second half was much better, which I think opened the game a little bit.”
Bain had special praise for the two players who will run the offense.
“I thought the play of Michael Miner and Miles Burback in the midfield was strong,” Bain said. “They’re going to be our anchors offensively. They’re going to settle the game down. They’re not going to panic. They’ve had two years of quality varsity experience.”
Cilento and Marvin felt the game was a sign of good things to come.
“Obviously, we have big hopes for the season, so getting a big win the first game of the season is big,” said Cilento.
“We want to win every game. That’s our goal,” said Marvin. “We know there will be tough games, but we think it’s our time.”