By BILL PALMER
NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna and Shenendehowa girls’ soccer teams just can’t help themselves.
Every time the two Suburban Council perennial powers meet, the games are intense and rarely decided by more than two goals.
The top two teams in the SC North nearly outdid themselves Saturday morning, with the Lady Plainsmen getting a second-half goal from sophomore Kendra Harbinger to take a 2-1 win.
The result left Shenendehowa at 7-1-0 and Niskayuna with a 6-2-1 record. But under the league’s points system, they are tied at 10 apiece.
“Ever since I’ve been playing, Nisky’s been a really big rival. They’ve always been my favorite team to play,” said senior central defender Lauren Bausch, who was matched against Niskayuna’s top offensive player, Marika Contompasis, for most of the game.
“They’re the top competition that we’ve played so far. There’s a lot of talented players. It’s not like it’s a team with just one or two really standout players.”
“Whenever we play them, they come out really hard and we come out really hard, and its always very evenly matched,” said Niskayuna senior midfielder Sophia Contantine.
“This was probably the first time this season that the whole game was back and forth. It’s like that every year we play them, no matter who they have or who we have.”
Shenendehowa got a great save from sophomore goalkeeper Jill Shippee on Contompasis 12 minutes in, then started applying pressure that paid off when senior midfielder Samantha Barringer’s 30-yard shot tucked under the crossbar.
Niskayuna pulled even 10 minutes into the second half. Constantine played a short Shenendehowa clear back into the Lady Plainsmen’s penalty area, and Contompasis got to the ball first and put it away.
“Marika is always hunting for goals,” said Niskayuna coach Bryce Colby. “She got a similar goal against Averill Park. That was a classic goal.”
Harbinger got a hustle goal to win it, beating a defender to a near post feed from Katie Benson with just under 20 minutes to play.
“I’m just crashing, one touch and into the goal,” she said. “I was trying to make that perfect run so the ball gets right on my foot.”
“She’s been great for us,” said Shenendehowa coach Holli Nirsberger of Harbinger. “We’ve got four quality forwards who can finish. It forces teams to make a decision.”
Both coaches pointed to the individual matchup between Bausch and Contompasis as the best part of the game.
“Lauren did a great job back there,” said Nirsberger. “We talk all the time about Lauren’s ability to be a solid, composed, disciplined 1v1 defender. She does that so well.”
“They left it in that one on one with Marika and their center back a whole lot,” said Colby. “We’re going to take that risk all the time. She [Bausch] played a good game.
“I don’t think anybody else in the league wants to leave Marika one on one. It was a great matchup.”
Both teams figure to be within a point or two of each other when they meet on
Oct. 14 under the lights at Shenendehowa in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
“They’re going to remember this when they come and play us under the lights,” Nirsbegrer said. “It’s going to be another battle. It’s our rival, it has been for 30 years.”
“If you were watching this game, and didn’t have any stake in it, it was a great game to watch,” said Colby. “It was a great game even from the sideline.”
This story originally appeared in The Daily Gazette.