Defending champions fall, and try to lose with grace

Enterprise file photo — Jordan J. Michael

Pitch and catch: The Dutch softball team tried to defend its Class AA title from 2013 this year, but lost in the quarterfinals to Bethlehem. Here, Taylor Tewksbury unwinds for Guilderland during a late-April game against Columbia.

Enterprise file photo — Jordan J. Michael

No space to spare: Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s Anna White won the pole-vault competition during the Western Athletic Conference Championships last May; White is entering her senior year. 

Enterprise file photo — Jordan J. Michael

Seeing the light? During a basketball game last December, Stephany Keenan streaks towards the hoop for Voorheesville.                

Enterprise file photo — Jordan J. Michael

The Guilderland tennis team won its second consecutive championship this year, and top player Alex Fedorov, seen here tossing up a serve during individual sectionals, made the state competition; he was named a Section 2 First Team All Star. Michael Zhu and Bill Dong also made States for the Dutch as a doubles team.

Enterprise file photo — Jordan J. Michael

With the basket in his sights, Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s Justin Houck goes for a lay-up during the Bulldogs’ Class C opening-round loss at Rensselaer last February. BKW played rather well this year after a controversial coaching change before the start of the season.

If I’ve learned anything from being a sportswriter, it’s that athletes hate to lose. The feeling of loss, in any state — sports or not — is hard to cope with. Nobody enjoys being a loser or losing something.

However, in sports across the world, and here locally, there is a loser for every winner. Some games may be more meaningful than others, and some may be the whole kit and caboodle.

Last spring, three area teams — Guilderland girls’ lacrosse, Voorheesville baseball, and Guilderland softball — each had the ultimate goal of defending their sectional championships from 2013. Each team had more experience, and relatively the same line-ups in 2014, but each team fell short.

Voorheesville baseball and Guilderland lacrosse got heartbreakingly close to another title, each losing in the finals. The Blackbirds walked in the winning run in the seventh inning against Fonda, and the Dutch gave up a late goal against Shaker, unable to tie the game towards the end off of a free position opportunity.

Guilderland softball lost in the quarterfinals at home to Bethlehem; the Eagles’ center fielder made an illustrious catch on a deep hit ball in the seventh inning that would have extended the game.

I talked to three student athletes — Cara Quimby, Joe Guerette, and Torie Rathwell — about losing out on another championship and what they learned from it. Each of them has been a key component for their team over the last few years, and most certainly will again in 2015.

Once more, losing is the pits, but people who lose with grace are winners.

Guilderland lacrosse

For the eighth straight season, the Guilderland girls’ lacrosse team made the Class A finals. The Dutch won championships from 2007 to 2010, and again in 2013.

Guilderland has been on a tear for quite some time, but this year was a little different. The Dutch had a new, but not-so-new head coach, Carrie Britt; she had been an assistant coach for years. And the team lost a regular-season league game for the first time in a really long time.

“We know how it feels to win, and you always want that,” said Quimby, who scored 61 goals and had 27 assists for Guilderland in 2014; she’s going into her senior year. “You’re never content with losing, never, but we’re still proud. We overcame previous losses that we never dealt with before.”

Quimby, who has committed to Syracuse University for lacrosse, said that Shaker deserved to win the championship game.

“We didn’t have the chemistry. We played more individually,” added Quimby. “We had the heart, and nothing to lose, but, in crunch time, we didn’t play well enough. We were tentative.”

This season, Guilderland seemed like a team that realized it was no longer untouchable.

“All the girls understand the importance [of winning], and it’s a fun thing,” Quimby said. “It feels amazing and everyone should feel it.”

Despite all the new adversity that the Dutch faced this season, the team still reached the finals.

“I always have high hopes for our team,” said Quimby. “We can always go far, mesh together, and figure it out.”

Voorheesville baseball

After two consecutive appearances in the state semifinals, the Voorheesville baseball team was shooting for number three. The Birds were riding a cloud of confidence; another sectional title seemed inevitable.

“We have really thought that winning was everything, and that nothing else mattered,” said Guerette, a rising senior at Voorheesville. “It would have been nice to three-peat, but we don’t need a title to be successful. In our minds, we’re still winners.”

Voorheesville’s back-to-back state playoff runs had come in Class C; the Blackbirds jumped up to Class B in 2014.

“We proved people wrong, still,” Guerette said. “There’s always hope for success. You learn so much during a season.”

Before facing Fonda in the finals, Voorheesville pitcher Nick Chiseri had thrown a no-hitter against the Braves two weeks earlier. In the semifinals against Chatham, Chiseri pitched another no-hitter.

In the championship, Voorheesville was ahead, 2 to 0, after five innings. Fonda scored a run in the sixth inning, and then Chiseri started having trouble in the seventh. The Birds brought in Kristian Singh for pitching relief, but the damage was already done.

Chiseri, a sophomore, may have run out of gas.

“He got a little tired, but it’s not his fault,” Guerette said of Chiseri. “He’s our best pitcher, and it’s not like our bats were doing much.”

Voorheesville will have a senior-loaded roster next year, so Guerette is looking forward to another “exceptional” season. He says the Birds still carry a champion’s attitude.

“The best team doesn’t always win,” Guerette said.

Guilderland softball

Repeating as a champion is difficult, and the Guilderland softball team comprehended that earlier than it would have liked.

“We didn’t get as far as we hoped we would,” said Rathwell, a rising junior at Guilderland. “Personally, I really don’t like to lose. Regardless, it’s part of the game.”

“A big part of softball is getting ahead early,’ she said, but this season, the team had trouble doing that. That was true in the quarterfinal loss to Bethlehem.

Rathwell said that the Dutch had to play 100 percent harder in 2014.

“All of us were very upset, but we tried our best,” Rathwell said. “It’s hard to stay mad about it; you have to focus on next year.”

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