NISKAYUNA -- With a couple of second-half runs, Niskayuna forged one of the great comebacks in the history of the boys' state lacrosse tournament Saturday.
Veteran coach Mike Vorgang acknowledged that some of the things Niskayuna did before it overhauled Mamaroneck 14-13 in that Class A regional final weren't so great.
"For 35 minutes, we didn't execute," Vorgang said of his team's uneven performance at Lakeland High School, which it capped by scoring 10 of the games' last 13 goals. "We need to string more minutes of consistent lacrosse."
The Silver Warriors (19-1) will need a lot of those quality minutes when they take on Ward Melville in the Patriots' Long Island backyard at Adelphi University Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in a state semifinal game. Ward Melville (19-1) of Suffolk County is a nine-time New York champion and is No. 1 in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse national poll.
Ward Melville beat a pair of nationally-ranked teams, No. 23 Half Hollow Hills East (14-5 in the Section XI title game) and No. 16 Massapequa (8-5 for the Long Island championship), to set up a first-ever meeting with unranked Niskayuna.
"With this group, effort has never been an issue, but execution at times has been," Vorgang said of his 25th varsity edition. "All the mistakes we tend to make, they will capitalize. We have to play our cleanest game. We've done it before."
Vorgang was referring to surprising tournament wins Niskayuna posted in a 2005 semifinal against West Islip (11-6), in a 2010 sub-regional against John Jay (7-6), and in a 2015 semifinal against Syosset (14-11). Niskayuna went on to beat West Genesee (13-10) and became Section II's only state champ in 2015.
"They [Ward Melville] are No, 1 in the country," Vorgang said. "They are who they are. They are super athletic. They have tough kids. They are No. 1 for a reason. We've talked to our kids about that. We've beaten the No. 2 and the No. 3 before. We are a huge underdog, but that's where this program started."
Niskayuna is looking to add to its 3-5 state semifinal record.
"We are not going to get intimidated," said junior attackman Drew Collins, who scored the final two goals in Saturday's comeback win. "We know how good they are. We know what they can do. We think we're one of the better teams in the nation, too, although the rankings don't say it."
Niskayuna has won eight straight games since an 18-5 loss to St. Anthony's, a Long Island team with a No. 14 UA/IL national ranking. Ward Melville has won 10 in a row since a 7-6 loss to Half Hollow Hills East it later avenged.
"Who thought the Eagles would beat the Patriots with a second string quarterback?" Vorgang asked. "There's only 30 people on the planet who think we have a shot at beating them."
"We have a lot of positive vibes going," Collins said.
Those vibes are in part the residue of Niskayuna's stunning comeback against Mamaroneck. Niskayuna trailed 10-4 late in the third quarter, scored seven unanswered goals, gave up three in a row, and then scored the last three.
"It was certainly wild," Vorgang said. "I don't know how I would feel being on the other end. They had that game wrapped up. Our guys didn't quit."
"We got together and decided we're not done yet. We came together as a unit," Collins said. "We scored seven [goals] in a row, and after they scored three, we knew we could do it again. We stayed composed."
West Genesee (Section III, 17-2) and Lancaster (Section VI, 17-2) play in the other Class A semifinal Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. The title game is Saturday at St. John Fisher College at 12:30 p.m.