AMSTERDAM — Johnstown girls' lacrosse coach Denise Benton hasn't had to search for tactics this spring to spur her team on. A victory from long ago and a more recent defeat have given the Lady Bills all they need.
"I love their work ethic," Benton said Friday after her team knocked off Amsterdam 22-5 to run its record to 9-1 and match last year's victory total. "I love that they are so self-motivated."
Johnstown has designs on a Section II championship, something the team has accomplished only once, back in 2006, when it knocked off Emma Willard for the Class C flag. Johnstown, now playing at the Class D level, hasn't reached a title game since.
"We have talked about that since the beginning of the season," Johnstown senior Maddie Etherton said after collecting five goals and an assist in Friday's the Foothills Council win. "Really, since last year."
Last year ended with a 24-4 Section II semifinal loss to eventual Class D champion Schuylerville. The Lady Bills, with their cast of multi-sport athletes, are thinking this is the year they get over the hump and make a state tournament appearance.
"I would like to see it happen," Benton said. "These kids have been working since they were in second, third and fourth grade."
"We've all been around each other forever," Etherton said. "Any time we say let's do something as a team, everyone is in. We stick together and motivate each other every day."
Etherton and six other lacrosse players were on the Johnstown field hockey team that reached the Section II Class C title game last fall, but lost to Hoosick Falls by a goal and finished with an 18-1 record.
"A lot of the girls played field hockey," Etherton said. "This is our last chance to win it."
"That was painful for them," Benton said of the 1-0 loss to Hoosick Falls. "We talk about that all the time. We ask them, 'Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?'"
For starters, Johnstown came into the season with a desire to get better, and that has happened.
"We're seeing the field more and more each game," said Etherton, who, along with Rachel Lee, serves as team captain. "It was pretty bad in the beginning of the season. We were just getting tired."
Benton said the improved transition game has been a big part of Johnstown's success. The state's No. 14-ranked Class D team posted recent wins over Class C teams Scotia-Glenville, South Glens Falls and Glens Falls.
"We don't want the ball in their stick more than three to five seconds," Benton said. "We're always saying, 'Three to five. Move the feet. Get it out of your stick.'"
Johnstown's only loss came Wednesday, a 27-6 setback against a Queensbury team that beat Niskayuna for the Section II Class B title last season and is projected to play for another championship later this month.
"They came off the bus and looked like a college team," Benton said. "That's the hardest game we'll see, and it was good to see that level. We were aiming for 10 goals, but I was happy we put six on them."
"That showed we can put goals in against good teams," Etherton said.
Johnstown has scored at least 11 goals in each of its nine wins, and three times has surpassed 20 goals.
"We have a nice group of seven girls who can score," Benton said. "If a team wants to focus on a couple of girls, we have others who can get the job done."
Taryn Ringer had four goals and four assists Friday, Amber Tesi had four goals and three assists and Alexandra Queeney finished with four goals and one assist. Johnstown built a 15-3 halftime lead, which included a goal by Abbey Hollister that gave the junior 100 varsity points. Etherton and Queeney both notched their 100th varsity point earlier in the season.
"I like being the underdog, but the more we win, the more targets are on our back," Benton said. "I'm okay with it."
Johnstown 15 7 — 22
Amsterdam 3 2 — 5
Johnstown scoring: Lee 1-1, Hollister 1-1, Etherton 5-1, Fleming 2-0, Ringer 4-4, Tesi 4-3, Queeney 4-1, M. Delgado 0-2, Memrick 1-0. Amsterdam scoring: K. Hoefs 3-0, S. Hoefs 2-0, Fedullo 0-1, Troche-Esteva 0-1.
Goalkeepers: Johnstown, Manchester, 7 saves. Amsterdam, Kilgallen, 2 saves.