BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — In dizzying spells, the Niskayuna girls lacrosse squad scores goals in bunches.
Through this season’s first 14 games — all wins — the Silver Warriors have scored at least 17 goals nine times and 20 or more in three different contests. Head coach Jason Bach’s offensive attack is so potent and time-consuming, a spectator’s gaze often goes minutes without seeing a Niskayuna defender.
When one of those defenders does come into view, it is often not for long — and that’s by design.
“We try to never let the ball get past the midfield line,” said sophomore defender Becca Curro, whose team did not allow a single shot on goal earlier this season in a 20-0 victory against Averill Park.
Niskayuna plays a high-octane brand of defense, geared to take chances to create opportunities in transition for its offense. Bach jokes that the Niskayuna defenders have the “best seat in the house” to watch the club’s high-scoring attack, but he knows the unit’s league-best work this season is a major reason his club has sprinted to a top-15 state ranking.
“They create turnovers, knockdowns, and get ground balls,” Bach said of his defenders. “They do the little things like that to get our attack the chances to succeed.”
Curro and senior Dana Melby are the squad’s top roaming defenders, while junior Maya Manchester anchors the unit in net. Sophomore Nora Molino has also been a major contributor for Niskayuna, the only Suburban Council squad to allow fewer than 80 goals this season through May 10.
Just as it is with the team’s offense, speed is key for the Niskayuna defense. So, too, is communication, an area in which Melby leads the Silver Warriors. There is a constant chatter amongst the Niskayuna defenders, a necessity so that the club’s high-pressure, trapping defense works without breaking down.
“Defense, more than offense, requires a lot of trust and communication — especially the way we play it,” said Bach, explaining his Niskayuna defenders need to communicate when they are leaving their posts to double an opposing offensive player.
“When you do that, you’re leaving someone else with two to defend,” said Bach. “That takes trust on everyone’s part.”
Manchester — who, through May 10, had allowed only 77 goals in 14 games, an average of 5.5 — said hearing chirping in front of her is reassuring. A first-year starter, Manchester has been up to the challenge of being the Silver Warriors’ last line of defense, and credited Curro and Melby with helping to make her rookie starting season a success.
“Dana and Becca are impeccable. You always know they have your back,” said Manchester. “This was a really good atmosphere for me to come into.”
The club has ratcheted up its defensive pressure a few more notches in its past several outings. In a three-game stretch from May 2 to May 9, Niskayuna allowed only 14 goals. Only five of those came after halftime.
“I guess it takes us some time to warm up,” said Melby. “Once we get in a groove, we’re set.”
And, often not seen. Curro and Melby said they don’t find it too hard to stay tuned into games despite the lulls they see in action. Sometimes, though, Melby joked they worry about Manchester, back in net all by herself.
“Some games, yeah, I will just go back and stand with her,” Melby said with a laugh.