BY MICHAEL KELLY
LATHAM — Replacing the production from All-American midfielders Aidan O’Brien and John Prendergast for the 2016 season is going to be a by-committee task for the Niskayuna boys’ lacrosse team.
But replacing goalie Nick Testa, the MVP of last year’s state tournament, has to be more of a singular effort. The nature of the position demands it, and junior Jack Lynch showed in the Silver Warriors’ season-opening 11-3 win against Shaker that he has the tools to supply the kind of last line of defense Niskayuna needs as it looks to defend its Class A Section II and state titles.
“Jack’s a really good goalie,” Niskayuna head coach Mike Vorgang said. “He played really well the last two [scrimmages] and he was clean [against Shaker]. … He’s going to have to play well for us to be good.”
In his first test, Lynch passed with ease. He made four saves and allowed three goals, one of which came off a scramble near the net he could do little about to stop. Against Shaker, Lynch did not allow his first goal until more than 22 minutes into the contest and he made a couple saves on point-blank opportunities for the Blue Bison.
“That helped my confidence a lot,” Lynch said of his early saves. “But so, too, did the way my defense played. They were great.”
The unit in front of Lynch — with seniors Anthony Rubino and Jake Shephard leading the way — was sharp, but the pressure was on the goalie. A third-year varsity player, Lynch found out only a few days before his first start that he would get the nod to replace Testa, who is now playing at Villanova University.
“That’s not an easy thing to do,” Vorgang said of being the player to follow Testa. “But [Lynch] is a confident kid.”
Lynch said he’s not looking to make anyone forget about his predecessor. “Ah, man, Nicky T, we miss him so much,” was his initial response when asked about any pressure he felt following Testa. Lynch has been playing goalie, though, since he was in the second grade, and the chance to take on the position for the varsity team has been a long-held dream for him.
“I’m really, really excited,” he said. “But it’s just a great opportunity [for all of us] to get back at it and try to defend the title.”
Lynch knows there are likely some tough moments ahead of him this season as he settles into his role. That goes for the other Niskayuna players, too, trying to step up into more integral roles for the Silver Warriors. Lynch said the team’s coaching staff has taken a realistic approach with those Niskayuna players finding themselves in higher-pressure situations.
“They tell us we’re going to make mistakes, but it’s about how we learn from those mistakes,” he said.
But there were no real errors for Lynch in his opening game as the Silver Warriors’ starting goalie. He got to leave the field at Shaker with a huge smile on his face after performance he hopes to duplicate.
“A win like this, it’s great,” Lynch said.