Niskayuna to face Bethlehem in AA girls’ soccer title

Photo by Michael Kelly
Shenendehowa's Kendra Harbinger, left, races away from Bethlehem's Holly Moore during the Section II Class AA girls' soccer semifinals Saturday in Stillwater.Photo by Michael Kelly Shenendehowa's Kendra Harbinger, left, races away from Bethlehem's Holly Moore during the Section II Class AA girls' soccer semifinals Saturday in Stillwater.

By Michael Kelly

— His eyes darting from one of the field’s goals to the other, Bethlehem girls’ soccer head coach Tom Rogan let out a little chuckle.

“I have memories of both these goals,” he said.

Rogan’s referenced memories, both good and bad, had to do with sessions of penalty kicks from postseason games. His latest — his sixth career match as a coach, he said, that’s been decided in PKs — went his way Saturday evening, as Bethlehem advanced from the Section II Class AA semifinals after winning a best-of-5 series of PKs with Shenendehowa following a 2-2 tie. The Plainsmen’s final PK was a miss from senior Kendra Harbinger, an agonizingly close shot which clanged off the post to allow Bethlehem’s 3-2 PK lead to hold up.

“My heart breaks for her,” Shenendehowa head coach Holli Nirsberger said of Harbinger, who the coach said was the player she most wanted in the high-stakes situation. “She’s been a crucial player for us for a bunch of years.”

Bethlehem (9-8-2, No. 7) and Shenendehowa (12-4-2, No. 3) each made their first two PKs, before each missing their next two. Bethlehem junior Olivia Miranda made her team’s fifth attempt before Harbinger’s shot just missed to close the session and end Shenendehowa’s season in a tough fashion.

“I’ve never liked it, as a player or a coach,” Nirsberger said. “I hate to go to PKs.”

Shenendehowa junior Kelly Hamlin scored both goals for the Plainsmen, as Shenendehowa built a 2-0 lead that it kept until late in regulation. Bethlehem junior Holly Moore scored in the 70th minute to cut her team’s deficit to 2-1.

Bethlehem senior Shannon Russo scored the overtime-forcing goal in the 79th minute.

After 30 minutes of scoreless overtime sessions, Bethlehem sophomore Grace Hotaling made one save in net and connected on a shot of her own during the PKs.

“She was obviously the difference-maker in there,” Rogan said.

Besides Hotaling and Miranda, senior Sophia Calabrese also had a successful PK for Bethlehem, while Shenendehowa’s made shots were from juniors Ava Sullivan and Mia Longo.

SILVER WARRIORS ADVANCE

Bethlehem will play Niskayuna in Tuesday’s championship match back in Stillwater, as the defending champions picked up a 4-1 win Saturday against Saratoga Springs with junior Izzy Lynch leading the way with three goals.

After a length delay before their game because of the overtimes between Shenendehowa and Bethlehem, Niskayuna jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the game’s fourth minute.

“They had energy when they came out, that’s for sure,” Niskayuna head coach Bryce Colby said.

Lynch also scored for Niskayuna (15-0-3, No. 1) in the 51st and 69th minutes. Junior Alana McNulty assisted the first Lynch goal, while freshman Olivia Piraino assisted the next two scores. Junior Ali Greco scored Niskayuna’s final goal off a pass from senior Kaitlyn McCullough with about five minutes to go in regulation.

Like Shenendehowa, Niskayuna had led 2-0 before its advantage decreased to 2-1 when Saratoga Springs (11-4-2, No. 4) junior Morgan Siewert scored in the 64th minute. The Silver Warriors never panicked, though, instead adding two more goals to clinch its spot in the title game.

“That’s what we’re going to do,” Colby said. “We’re going to go after them.”