BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — One of the first things the Niskayuna girls’ lacrosse team did together this preseason was watch how last year’s remarkable campaign came undone.
Undefeated through winning the Section II Class B tournament, the Silver Warriors fell 18-4 to Section I’s Somers in the state quarterfinals. Watching that “pretty horrible” footage a few weeks back, senior goalie Maya Manchester said, was both gut-wrenching and therapeutic for the veteran Silver Warriors.
“It was about learning from our mistakes and growing from them,” she said. “What we learned from that [loss], we can apply those lessons to any of our games this season.”
Niskayuna won a program-record 18 games last season. That lone loss did not define the Silver Warriors’ 2015 season, but it did provide this year’s squad with a more clear vision of where it wants to end up. Another helping of Suburban Council and Section II championships are top goals, but so is success in the state tournament.
Marisa DiVietro, one of 10 seniors on this year’s team, said last year’s experiences — both the good and the bad — have helped to shape a tough-minded squad for 2016.
“We’ve gained a lot more confidence,” DiVietro said. “We’re trying to use that to our advantage, to play stronger.”
Head coach Jason Bach said what he’s noticed about his team for this season is that it is less tense. Despite the looming challenge of being targeted for a full season as the Suburban Council’s top team, he said the Silver Warriors have had a relatively stress-free training camp.
“It’s a much more relaxed group, a light-hearted group,” he said. “But they have the ability to get focused and get serious. They recognize situations.”
When Niskayuna starts its season with an April 4 visit to Albany, the Silver Warriors will count on its deep group of seniors to lead them. The club’s roster also boasts seven underclassmen, all of whom are likely to see playing time.
“We’re talented at the top, but it’s not a zero-sum game,” Bach said. “As talented as we are [in our] senior class, we have quite a bit of talent in our younger classes, too.”
Those underclassmen have brought a spark to the team’s preseason with their energy, and have impressed the team’s veterans with their play in scrimmages.
“Honestly,” DiVietro said, “it looks like they’ve been on the [varsity] for a few years.”
The presence of varsity rookies, too, has kept the Silver Warriors grounded during the preseason. The need to work in new players around its returning stars has helped Niskayuna maintain its focus during the day-to-day grind of its first weeks together.
“We’re taking it slow, but we’re being very intense about it,” Manchester said.
Once games start, Niskayuna will only get a couple tuneups before its first major test of the season. In the third game of their season, the Silver Warriors meet Guilderland at Union College in an April 9 contest featuring last year’s Section II Class A and Class B champions. Later in April, the squad has scheduled a telling four-games-in-six-days stretch which culminates with an April 27 visit to Shenendehowa.
Of course, the games Niskayuna cares the most about come in late May and early June. In the weeks of regular season games ahead of them, the Silver Warriors want to use the lessons they learned from last season’s ending to lay the groundwork for a better one in 2016.
“We want to grow and more forward,” Manchester said.