Among the schools changing leagues during the summer was Mechanicville, as the long-time Colonial Council school moved to the Wasaren League.
The girls’ soccer team opened play Wednesday in its new league, though the opponent was familiar.
“We’ve always been rivals. So, it’s nice to be able to play them,” said senior midfielder Sarah Erno after the Lady Red Raiders had beaten next-door neighbor Stillwater, 6-0. “But, we were a little nervous, going into a new league.”
Mechanicville was locked into the state-mandated cap of 16 regular-season games as a member of the Colonial Council.
In replacing Schuylerville (which left the eight-team Wasaren for the Foothills Council), Mechanicville can pick up a pair of non-league games. Mechanicville beat former Colonial rival Lansingburgh, 2-0, in it season opener last week, and plays Albany Academy on Monday,
“I always thought the Wasaren was kind of like the Colonial, with Hoosick Falls and Schalmont [at the top], then a bunch of teams that are good every other year,” said Mechanicville coach Karl Gerstenberger.
“When we did the analysis for this, a lot of teams from the Wasaren have won sectionals. It’s a competitive, competitive league. You have to come and play every single game.”
“This should help us seeding-wise, because they’ll get to see us play against other teams.”
The debut in the new league went about as well as could be expected, as freshman Mackenzie Bowie scored four minutes in.
Keara LaFountain, Erin Mastropietro and Amanda Kenyon added goals before the break, and Kali DeMarco and Mastropietro scored second-half goals.
“We knew coming in that they were a good team,” said Stillwater coach Christine Ihnatolya. “We played them last year in a scrimmage, and they were tough then. So, we knew that is was going to be a tough game for us.
“They have overall talent. They don’t just have strong points. They play the ball quick. They have a lot of quick girls. Overall, they’re a very talented team.”
And a team with hopes for a long, successful season.
The core of the team is made up of juniors and seniors from Mechanicville teams that reached a sectional final game, but was upset in the quarterfinals last fall.
“We’re trying to get further than we got last year,” said Erno. “We’ve worked hard to get better, and coach pushes us every day.”
“I’ve got more seniors this year than I had the last two years,” Gerstenberger said. “Last year, we graduated two, the year before that was four. I’ve got eight this year, and eight juniors.
“It makes a big difference. These are all three-year players.
“What we were doing today, we could have never done last year. We’re at the next level with our passing. Having that familiarity helps.”
“We’re very comfortable with each other. So does having veteran players like Erno, DeMarco, Madison Gowetta, Renate Gerstenberger and Courtney Pingelski back.
“We’re a different team with her out there,” said Gerstenberger of Pingelski, his senior sweeper, who missed last season after suffering an injury playing basketball in the offseason. “ We never recovered from losing her last year.”
Mechanicville will see the team that has dominated the Wasaren League for the past several seasons when it plays at Hoosick Falls on Friday.
“That will tell us where we are,” Gerstenberger said.
There is one more game that Mechanicville has circled on its schedule, one that will give one of these rivals bragging rights for a year.
“We have an Indian Cup game coming up,” said Erno, referring to the rivalry with Stillwater. “That will be cool.”