Tom Schwan was looking for a positive response after his Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ lacrosse team let a three-goal lead get away in a season-opening loss to Queensbury.
What the veteran coach got was a school-record run, and then some.
“We’re gaining momentum and we’re gaining confidence,” Schwan, in his seventh year with the Spartans, said. “We’ve been able to answer in games when we got down and when the other team came back. That’s a big deal. That’s definitely a sign of maturity.”
Young but resilient, the Spartans have strung 10 consecutive victories since the 10-9 overtime setback against Queensbury. Burnt Hills’ longest win streak before that consisted of five games in 2010, in 2011 when it claimed its only Section II Class B title, and in 2012.
Burnt Hills, in its 10th anniversary season, also put together four-game win streaks three times.
“It’s been a snowball effect,” attackman Will Clark, one of BH-BL’s six seniors, said. “We’ve been getting better and better.”
Burnt Hills got better in a 9-5 win at Bethlehem Friday and in Wednesday’s 11-7 home win against Colonie. The Spartans trailed the Eagles in the second quarter 4-1, and were behind 3-1 after the opening frame against the Garnet Raiders.
“We came out a little slow. The energy wasn’t there, and it showed in the first quarter,” Clark said of the Colonie game in which he finished with five goals and three assists. “Coach said one goal at a time. Stuff started to go our way.”
Burnt Hills outscored Colonie in the middle quarters 6-0, and rallied from its 4-1 hole against Bethlehem with eight unanswered goals.
“What we are able to do is dodge, draw a slide, move the ball, and dodge again,” Schwan said. “We’re getting defenses to rotate. That part of our game is getting better all the time. It’s not the first dodge that does it. It’s often the third or fourth.”
Veterans and youngsters have helped Burnt Hills reach double digits in goals in all but two games. Midfielder Darien LaPietro, BH-BL’s lone freshman, scored two goals against Colonie. Sophomore midfielder Jake Stanko delivered two goals against Bethlehem.
“We’re getting used to playing with each other,” Clark said. “It’s coming along.”
Burnt Hills is 9-0 in the Suburban Council, with a 16-11 win against Ballston Spa, a 14-5 win against CBA and the last two victories marking the highlights.
Burnt Hills also owns an 8-6 non-league triumph against Vestal, which has claimed the last five Section IV Class B championships, and used the Spartans as a steppingstone in 2015 with a 9-8 win.
“We brought a lot of new guys up from the JV,” said Clark, who is joined on attack by his twin brother Ben. “There’s a big learning curve. We’ve done a good job of working through that.”
Schwan said he’s been particularly pleased with his new longstick defensive group of juniors Dan Dahlin, Patrick Hopsicker, Connor McClernan, Kyle Miller, Jackson Lindberg and Jake Schuhl. They are working in front of junior goalkeeper Dan Biesty, one of the chief holdovers from last year’s Section II runner-up team.
“We had a three-minute penalty to start the second quarter and didn’t give up a goal. We had a one-minute slash at the end of the third and didn’t give up a goal,” Schwan said of two key stands against Colonie. “These guys [the longstick group] never played a varsity game before this year. They’re really starting to figure it out. Our rotations have improved.”
Burnt Hills went 3-0 last week, starting with a 15-0 win at Columbia when senior midfielder Mike Leveroni scored a team-leading four goals.
“Three games in a week is tough, but we handled it well,” Schwan, who previously directed varsity teams at Guilderland and CBA, said. “We didn’t have the greatest legs in the Bethlehem game, but we remained focused. That’s the maturity piece coming into play.”
Schwan acknowledged that the back end of Burnt Hills’ league schedule is certain to prove more difficult than the first part that included wins against first-year varsity teams from Averill Park and Albany. Burnt Hills’ will close out against Guilderland, reigning state Class A champ Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs, Shaker and Shenendehowa.
“This has been great for us. Real positive,” Schwan said of the first 11 games. “We’ve been able to gain confidence and experience which will help us down the stretch and going into the Class B playoffs.”
Burnt Hills is one victory shy of matching the school record. The Spartans won 11 games in both 2011 and 2012, and finished with 10 wins last season and in Schwan’s first campaign in 2010.