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All guts, all glory

All guts, all glory

Another group, maybe they don’t handle it so well.
All guts, all glory
Niskayuna boys' lacrosse's Nick Testa, right, accepts the most valuable player award after his team won the Class A state championship in Vestal on Saturday
Photographer: Michael Kelly

West Genesee took more shots, scooped up a few more ground balls and turned the ball over far fewer times than Niskayuna in Saturday’s state Class A championship lacrosse game at Vestal High School.

So how did the Silver Warriors win?

“They made some plays, and we didn’t make enough plays,” said longtime West Genesee coach Mike Messere after his Wildcats were denied their 16th state title and the Silver Warriors claimed their first. “Really, that’s about it.”

The Silver Warriors’ greatest asset in their history-making 13-10 victory may have been their ability to bounce back. Their willingness to battle. Their guts.

Those traits were especially important early in the contest, when West Genesee built 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 leads, and in the second half, after David Procopio ended the first on a goal with two seconds left.

West Genesee took more shots, scooped up a few more ground balls and turned the ball over far fewer times than Niskayuna in Saturday’s state Class A championship lacrosse game at Vestal High School.

So how did the Silver Warriors win?

“They made some plays, and we didn’t make enough plays,” said longtime West Genesee coach Mike Messere after his Wildcats were denied their 16th state title and the Silver Warriors claimed their first. “Really, that’s about it.”

The Silver Warriors’ greatest asset in their history-making 13-10 victory may have been their ability to bounce back. Their willingness to battle. Their guts.

Those traits were especially important early in the contest, when West Genesee built 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 leads, and in the second half, after David Procopio ended the first on a goal with two seconds left.

Another group, maybe they don’t handle it so well.

“It was not as clean as you’d like it to be. We didn’t play great,” Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang said.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Niskayuna’s defensive cast played tough against the Syracuse-area heavyweight, and when they faltered, game most valuable player Nick Testa was there to bail them out with several magnificent saves. At the other end, Aidan O’Brien, John Prendergast and Lucas Quinn, arguably the best midfield trio in program history, accounted for 12 of the 13 goals.

“We shot the ball great,” Vorgang said. “Our shooting percentage was better than theirs, and we won more faceoffs. When you’re turning the ball over, you’ve got to find another way.”

Niskayuna had 22 turnovers to West Genesee’s 10, and its 35 shots were 10 less than their opponent. Niskayuna was successful on 12 of 21 clear attempts, and West Genesee on 10 of its 12. The Wildcats also snagged 36 ground balls, five more than the Silver Warriors.

“It was a wild game. The ball was all over the place. We didn’t play great, but our guys were resilient. We had a lot of unsung heroes,” Vorgang said. “Our guys played hard. They backed up the ball. They got after ground balls. They were sticking to it. They kept it going. They left it all on the field.”

And they walked off it as Section II’s first state champion in the sport. Niskayuna also captured a boys’ basketball title in 1978, and its boys’ swimming team was tops in the state in 2005.

“We came in confident,” said O’Brien, who scored a game-high five goals. “They’re a very storied program, but we had momentum from our last game and we followed through.

“This has been a dream for everyone who has come through our program. We hit some bumps, but other than that, we were able to finish it out. You couldn’t ask for a better ending.”

Prendergast sandwiched goals around another by Quinn to give Niskayuna (21-2) an 11-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, and goals by O’Brien and Prendergast — his fourth — extended the Silver Warriors’ advantage to 13-8 with 7:46 remaining.

West Genesee (Section III, 18-3) didn’t go away.

“We stayed after them,” said Messere. “I think we outplayed them in the second half.”

West Genesee scored the game’s last two goals, but had chances for more. In between goals by Nick Cunningham at the 7:19 mark and Conor Bartlett with 4:06 to go, Testa stopped two point-blank drives.

Testa made seven saves in the third quarter and six in the fourth. He finished with 17 stops. The senior made 10 of his 15 saves in the second half when Niskayuna beat Syosset 14-11 in the state semifinals, and earned its third title-game berth.

“He played out of his mind,” said Section II boys’ lacrosse coordinator and Scotia-Glenville coach Bob Gula. “That was impressive.”

“He did what good goalies do. Make the routine stop, and do something extra,” said Vorgang. “From the first quarter on, he got better and better.”

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All eight Niskayuna seniors will be playing lacrosse in college. Aside from Testa (Villanova), O’Brien (North Carolina) and Prendergast (Duke), the group includes Sam Assini (Union), Bill Braungart (Catholic University), Pat Holmes (Indiana, club), Nick Horne (Utica) and Jake Miller (Bryant).

“When I was in high school, I didn’t get much help. When I started here, I decided if I’m going to do this, and if a player has a desire to play in college, I would do what I could to help,” said Vorgang. “It started small, and now it’s almost like a full-time job. It used to be just seniors. Now it’s 11th-grade, 10th-grade. Phone calls. Texts. Division I, II and III. Even if I could change it, I wouldn’t, because it’s helping them move toward greater things.”

Juniors Aidan Byrne and Dylan Pantalone have made verbal commitments to Stony Brook and Syracuse, respectively, and Quinn, a sophomore, has also given Syracuse the nod. Pantalone went 16-11 on faceoffs Saturday and Quinn scored three goals. . . .

Niskayuna has won 361 games since 1994, when Vorgang introduced varsity lacrosse to the school. Since assistant coaches PJ Williams and Chris DeLano joined Vorgang in 2005, Niskayuna has won 217 games and made seven of its eight state final four appearances. In seven of those 11 seasons, Niskayuna won at least 20 games.

“Without those two, it doesn’t happen,” Vorgang said after the state title-game win. “They’ve done a fantastic job.” . . .

Niskayuna won its final 15 games after an 8-6 loss to Long Island’s St. Anthony’s. Niskayuna also lost 11-5 to Darien of Connecticut.

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