BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — Shenendehowa was undefeated in league play. So, too, was Niskayuna.
That’s where the similarities ended for the teams heading into Wednesday’s Suburban Council boys’ lacrosse game, a matchup featuring teams with vastly different goals.
The Plainsmen wanted to compete, to show they belonged. The Silver Warriors wanted to dominate, to show they are still in a class by themselves in Section II.
For a spurt, Niskayuna achieved its goal in an 18-10 win. From the rest of the contest, though, Shenendehowa walked away with enough positives to stay upbeat about a potential rematch in the Section II Class A playoffs.
“Hopefully we see them again in a sectional final,” said Shenendehowa senior Owen Putman, who scored four goals. “I’m hoping we do.”
Niskayuna (7-0, 7-2) wanted to crush the Plainsmen (7-1, 7-3) from the start, but had to settle for only giving Shenendehowa a taste of its best. Ahead 9-7 at halftime, the Silver Warriors put together a 5-0 run in the third quarter’s opening three minutes that left them wishing they had offered a similar stretch of play earlier in the game.
“If we come out like that at the beginning, they wouldn’t think they’d be able to play with us,” said Niskayuna junior Mike Doxie, who had four goals and four assists.
“You saw it [to start] the second half. That’s how it should have been the whole game,” added Niskayuna junior Lucas Quinn, who scored three goals. “We know what we can do . . . so we have to get a whole game of it together.”
Niskayuna — which received six goals from senior Dylan Pantalone, who had two scores in his team’s post-halftime, five-goal surge — pushed to a 5-2 lead in the opening quarter, but Shenendehowa hung around throughout the first half. Midway through the second quarter, Shen senior Dakota Rainville scored one of his four goals to knot the score at 7. Quinn scored 39 seconds after Rainville to put the Silver Warriors back up for good, and Niskayuna added another score late in the half.
“I’m a little disappointed, but we did score nine goals in the first half and they had seven. So I can’t be too disappointed with that because [Shenendehowa played well],” Niskayuna head coach Mike Vorgang said. “They had a plan and they executed it, to some degree.”
That plan was to look the Silver Warriors in the eye and not blink. Shenendehowa head coach Jason Gifford, a former Niskayuna assistant coach, said he tried to keep his team’s mood light in advance of the game — “Don’t worry about [last year’s] state championship. Just come out and play,” Gifford said was his message — but knew his players would likely struggle to block out the hype that goes along with playing Niskayuna, which has won 72 consecutive Section II games.
“Kids know. We watch film, they follow the scores, they know the history of their opponent,” Gifford said. “But they also want to come out here and play their best.”
For 24 minutes, the Plainsmen did just that. Shenendehowa never challenged the Silver Warriors after their burst to start the second half, but the Plainsmen were able to leave the home field of their rival — which has now beaten Shenendehowa 11 straight times — knowing they made the Silver Warriors work. Gifford said it will be painful for his team to rewatch those first minutes of the second half, but the rest of the study session should buoy the Plainsmen’s spirits.
“Absolutely. No doubt about it,” he said. “When we do film work, it’s to correct negatives, but also to accentuate positives. The film session from this one isn’t going to be all negative, and that’s good for our guys.”
“We came out fast, took care of the ball, and made some stops early,” said Shenendehowa junior Anthony Tebbano, who had a career-high 25 saves in net. “But we need to put it together for four quarters instead of two.”
That’s how Niskayuna felt, too. An eight-goal win is great, Doxie said, but the Silver Warriors can’t wait until the second half to show their “A” game.
“We’ve got to do that from the beginning,” Doxie said.
Shenendehowa 4 3 1 2 — 10
Niskayuna 5 4 6 3 — 18
Shenendehowa scoring: Owen Putman 4-0, Dakota Rainville 4-0, Matt Stucchi 2-1, Pierce Holohan 0-2, Adam Barcori 0-1, Mike Lazzaro 0-1. Niskayuna scoring: Dylan Pantalone 6-0, Mike Doxie 4-4, Lucas Quinn 3-0, Evan Maloney 2-0, James Sexton 1-1, Logan Michalisin 1-0, Ryan Sitterly 1-0, Griffin King 0-2, Aidan Byrne 0-1.
Goalies: Shenendehowa, Anthony Tebbano, 25 saves. Niskayuna, Jack Lynch, 10 saves.