BURNT HILLS — A talented, but youthful, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ lacrosse squad made the most of its many offensive options in Monday’s Section II Class C semifinals.
An up-tempo approach helped make that possible, as Burnt Hills cruised past Glens Falls 21-3 to put itself in position to defend its area crown.
“We’re going to make some mistakes, but I want them to push it,” Burnt Hills head coach John Battaglino said. “I think we’re a better team when we do that and look for things.”
The Spartans seemed to make few, if any, mistakes against Glens Falls. After Glens Falls scored the game’s first goal, the Spartans put together a decisive 9-0 run on their way to leading 13-2 at halftime. During the 9-0 streak, sophomore Allie Connally scored four goals and sophomore Sydnee Fitzgerald had three.
“We worked really well as a team, and we just have to keep working like that,” Connally said.
For the game, Connally finished with eight goals to lead the Spartans and Fitzgerald had four. Also putting together big games for Burnt Hills were sophomore Carly Szczepaniak with two goals and seven assists, eighth-grader MK Lescault with a goal and five assists, and eighth-grader Ella Blesi with three scores.
Burnt Hills scored the first two goals of the second half, and maintained at least a 12-goal advantage after that point.
“We put a nice, whole game together and that’s what I was looking forward to doing,” Battaglino said. “It starts on the defensive side. They made some nice stops and they made it difficult for [Glens Falls] to generate anything.”
In Wednesday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game at Mohonasen, top-seeded Burnt Hills will play second-seeded Averill Park, which defeated Scotia-Glenville 17-11 in Monday’s other Class C semifinal.
“It’s really exciting,” Connally said. “I’m just really proud of us for today. I think we worked really hard.”
Burnt Hills won area championships in 2017 and 2018, but the Spartans aren’t quite a veteran-laden squad this year. Burnt Hills’ 21-deep roster only includes two seniors and two juniors.
“Now, we’ve got pretty much eighth-graders making the decisions out there,” said Battaglino, referring to stars Blesi and Lescault. “To see them grow and learn to take over as a eighth-graders . . . says a lot about them.”
Throughout the season, Battaglino has seen his whole team grow. In his first year leading the Spartans after most-recently guiding the University at Albany women’s lacrosse team for an eight-season span that ended with the 2017 campaign, Battaglino said it has been like a “breath of fresh air” for him to return to the high school game.
“I don’t think they quite knew what to make of me when I first got here, but I think they’re starting [to think that] the old guy knows what he’s talking about,” said Battaglino, who coached at Syracuse University and Bethlehem High School prior to his tenure at UAlbany.
What Battaglino liked most Monday was how his young squad approached attacking the Glens Falls defense.
“They didn’t try to jam the ball in there when nothing was there,” Battaglino said, “and that shows they’re maturing.”
Before Burnt Hills tries to win an area championship for the third consecutive year, Battaglino said his message to his Spartans will be a simple one.
“Just keep doing what we’re doing,” Battaglino said. “The whole thing is to keep them loose. I want them to play well. That’s all I’m going to ask of them. They’ve done this before, and I’m just kind of steering them along and hopefully all good things happen. Averill Park is a real good team, and I’m just looking forward to seeing [the Spartans] continue to grow and play some good lacrosse.”
Glens Falls 2 1 — 3
Burnt Hills 13 8 — 21
Glens Falls scoring: Fox 1-0, Quirk 1-0, Gohn 1-0. Burnt Hills scoring: Blesi 3-0, Fitzgerald 4-0, C. Szczepaniak 2-7, Connally 8-0, Lescault 1-5, Adams 1-0, Sullivan 2-0, McClernan 0-2. Goalies: Glens Falls, Rath, 9 saves. Burnt Hills, Stone, 6 saves.