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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 24, 2007

Lady Blackbird fly into sectionals

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — Besides Monday’s loss to Guilderland, the Voorheesville softball team has been flying high.

The Lady Blackbirds had won five out of their last six games before Monday’s non-league contest and they qualified for the sectional playoffs.

The Blackbirds are the number-nine seed in Class B and played Hudson on Wednesday. With a win, Voorheesville would travel to Colonie to play Chatham, the top seed in the class.

"We’re definitely getting better since the first half of the year," said senior Jenna Massaroni. "Hitting, pitching, and defense — everything’s gotten better."

"I’m happy with the finish," Voorheesville Coach Matt Fiato said. "I’m not surprised. I knew we were capable of it. It was just a matter of playing the way we’re capable of."

The seeding was lower than Fiato thought as of Monday, he thought his team would possibly get a much higher seed.

"I think we could be a five or six," he said on Monday. "Losing our last game against Lansingburgh might hurt us a little bit."

Clinching the playoff spot

Before Monday’s game, the loss to the Knights was the only loss in the last couple of weeks of the season.

Voorheesville finished 9-7 in the Colonial Council and finished fourth.

"We had a shot to be tied for third," Fiato said. "We were up 5-0 against ’Burgh [Lansingburgh] but we lost it."

The Blackbirds had to get their record over .500 to qualify for sectionals. They were two games under after a loss to Mechanicville on May 5.

The Birds then beat Ravena, Holy Names (twice), Watervliet, and Cobleskill in succession to clinch the playoff spot.

"We definitely knew we had to win our last few games," Massaroni said. "We worked hard to get to the sectionals."

Massaroni, who is in her fifth year on the varsity, has hit her way to some records. She has hit for a .300 or above average for five consecutive years. At the beginning of the season, she had about 50 extra-base hits and 114 hits. Fiato had not tallied up all of this year’s stats and added them to previous years.

But Massaroni, who will be going to the College of William and Mary in Virginia in the fall, wanted to cap her softball career in winning fashion after not going to the sectionals last year.

"I really wanted to go in my last year," she said. "This year, we want to go far and I think that we can go far."

"We won eight out of our last 11 games," Fiato said. "That helped us a lot. At sectionals, we want to win two games and go from there."

Sarah LaFave has been solid in the pitcher’s circle and the line-up has been hitting the ball and playing good defense.

Brittany Vogel, Brittany Creed, Massaroni, Jillian Blair, Alyssa Hatch, Kelsey DeZalia, Brittany Holcomb, and Rebekah Coons have started in most of the games this season. Jackie Moreau, Christina Abelseth, and Katie Chiseri have also contributed off the bench.

"We didn’t hit well today," Fiato said on Monday. "We didn’t make adjustments at the plate. But we are getting seven, eight, nine, 10 hits a game."

Massaroni hopes that hitting continues into sectionals.

"We’re not just going to play one game," she said. "We’re looking to go far in sectionals. Coach tells us it’s a new season and it seriously is. No one on this team wants to play one game.

"Senior year and making sectionals is awesome," Massaroni added. "All the seniors talked about it. We said, ‘We have to make it to sectionals.’ To go far is our major goal."

Lightning doesn’t strike twice as Dutch win Suburban Council

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — The final game took two days with one game in between. But the Guilderland boys’ lacrosse team finished its game with Saratoga and finished the regular season with a bang.

The Dutchmen beat the Blue Streaks, 13-4, in a game that was started last Tuesday and finished Friday. A lightning storm on Tuesday halted the game with 3:34 left in the third quarter. The game resumed from that spot on Friday afternoon.

With their Senior Night game postponed and playing a close game with Shaker on Wednesday, the Dutch could have been lethargic, but they weren’t.

The Dutchmen outscored the Blue Streaks, 6-0, in the final 15-plus minutes of the contest. With the win, Guilderland clinched the best record in the Suburban Council and secured the league championship.

"My assistant coach Kris Bremmer said before the game it would be 6-0," Guilderland Head Coach Sean McConaghy said. "That’s what he wanted in the final 15 minutes. And we did it. With our offense, we took some time and had a specific practice for this 15 minutes. And it paid off. We had a bunch of open looks. We were able to do a lot of things."

With the win, the Dutch wrapped up the regular season with a 14-4 overall record and a 12-1 mark in the Suburban Council.

Guilderland beat Shaker, 10-9, in a rain-soaked contest last Wednesday.

However, the Dutchmen got the number-two seed in the Class A Section II playoffs. Niskayuna, which the Dutch split with this season, is the number-one seed. Guilderland will play a quarterfinal game on Friday on Don Snyder Field at Guilderland High School.

"We finally did it"

"It feels great," said Guilderland senior Scott Raffensperger about being league champions. "We finally did it. This is the first time we did it."

The season had a tough beginning as the Dutch dropped a non-league game to Bethlehem and then lost their first league game against perennial champion Niskayuna, 14-2.

"The beginning of the season was rough," Raffensperger said. "But the seniors took over and we got on a roll. We knew going into this week we had two games left and we had to win both of them to win the championship. We want to get a banner in the gym.

"It’s been an amazing season," Raffensperger added. "But for me it’s all about the playoffs. We have some kids that are not going to be playing in college so this is their last run and I know they will play hard."

Raffensperger, who is in his third year on the varsity, will be playing lacrosse in college. He will be a member of the University at Albany team next spring. The Great Danes lost in the NCAA quarterfinals to Cornell University on Saturday.

Matt Stillman will be going to St. Michael’s College in Vermont next fall and he capped off his final high school regular-season game in resounding fashion.

Stillman scored four goals, all on Friday, as the Dutchmen cruised to seal the win over Saratoga. Stillman’s best goal was a one-handed catch and shot near the crease.

Stillman scored the 12th goal of the contest after grabbing a high pass from Uriah Myrie with one hand on his stick. Stillman flicked the ball into the goal with one motion to score one of the most impressive goals of the season.

"I didn’t know I did it," Stillman said after the game. "I caught it and then I stuck it [into the goal]. I didn’t really know."

Before the lightning

Guilderland was leading the contest, 7-4, on Tuesday when lightning ended play. After a half-hour, when the lightning did not let up, it was determined the game would be finished on Friday.

The Dutchmen got goals in the first quarter from Chris Conway, unassisted, and Aaron Cahill, with Conway making the assisting pass.

The first frame ended in a 2-2 tie, but Guilderland took the lead early in the second quarter.

Quinn Connell scored an unassisted goal just over a minute into the frame.

Raffensperger, a defenseman, scored an unassisted goal after picking up the rebound of his missed shot on a fast break.

Guilderland took a 5-3 lead into the halftime break with a goal from Myrie. He was assisted by Conway on the tally.

Saratoga scored its final goal with 7:44 left in the third quarter. Then Guilderland scored two more goals before the delay.

Rory Nunamacher scored off an assist from Connell, and Cahill scored his second goal of the game with an assist from Myrie.

After the lightning

Guilderland dominated play against a worn-down Saratoga team when play resumed on Friday.

Stillman scored less than a minute after the game re-started with an assist from Connell.

Connell scored with an assist from Nunamacher and Stillman scored his second goal with 13 seconds left in the period. Cahill had the assist on the second tally.

Nunamacher, from Conway, Stillman’s one-handed shot, and another Stillman goal assisted by Travis Moore wrapped up the scoring for the Dutchmen.

Junior Nick Koss made eight saves for the Dutch. Senior Nick Stefani, who started and played the first half on Tuesday, made six saves.

The Dutchmen dominated all the vital categories. They picked up 56 groundballs to Saratoga’s 30, took 48 shots to Saratoga’s 31, and won the face-off battle, 15-5.

Senior Jordan Dubose, who will also be playing at the University at Albany, won most of those face-offs.

"It’s a good way to end the season," McConaghy said. "We lost just one Suburban Council game. And we’ve won every game since we lost to Lakeland."

The Dutch lost to Section I foe Lakeland on April 28. They have won seven games since.

"We were crushed by Niskayuna and we had some guys that came and went," McConaghy said. "We brought up two new kids from the junior varsity and they stepped up. And Nick Koss has been tremendous."

Koss has been solid in goal, replacing Judd Robinson who was a Suburban Council all-star and is now playing for the State University of New College at Oswego.

"Losing Judd was a big hit for me," Raffensperger said. "Judd and I were close and I didn’t think I could ever play with another goalie. But Koss has done an amazing job. He is just a saver."

Winning the league championship is nice, Raffensperger and Stillman said, but there is more to accomplish. After being in the Section II finals for the past two years, the Dutchmen want to win it.

"We’re firing on all cylinders," Stillman said. "The gears are clicking. We’re all ready for the sectionals"We want to finish it."

Dutchmen battle to the end in tennis final

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Trailing four matches to two in the Class A Section II championship match on Tuesday, there was no quit in the Guilderland tennis team.

The Dutchmen, the third seed in the tournament, eased its way back against Bethlehem and the sectional title came down to the final match.

Joey Milstein won the number-four singles match to make the score 4-3 and the number-one doubles team of Andrei Belostosky and Alex and Bush won maybe the most entertaining match of the day to pull the Dutchmen even, 4-4.

Then everything came down to the final match of the contest between number-two singles Mike Griggs of Guilderland and Bethlehem’s Mike Amico.

Amico pulled out a three-set win and gave the Eagles the championship for the second year in a row.

"That was an awesome tennis match," Guilderland Coach Curtis Snyder said afterwards. "I am really proud of these guys. They finished through it. We were hanging on by a thread after losing a tight third double match. Then our number-four singles guys came through with a win and our first doubles came through with a win."

It was the third year the Dutchmen and the Eagles hooked up for the final match. Guilderland won the Section II title in 2005.

"This is our fourth consecutive final," Snyder said. "Unfortunately, we have just one win in those. But somebody like Mike Griggs has played in four finals. That just doesn’t happen."

"Avenge those losses"

Guilderland was the winner of the first completed match of the day. The number-two doubles team won its match in two sets. After losing the number-five singles, Guilderland’s Jon Ellenbogen lost the number-one match against Jesse Hoffman. Dan Bakst dropped the number-two singles match, but Guilderland got a win in the number-six slot to pull within one match.

But when Bethlehem won the third doubles match, the Dutchmen were in trouble.

The Dutchmen got the win from Milstein, and then Belostosky and Bush won their match in the third set to tie the match.

Griggs lost the first set and was up in the second set when the final doubles match ended. With no one else on the court and with teammates, coaches, and parents cheering each point, Griggs held on to win the second set, 7-5. The two combatants then played a back-and-forth third set that featured service breaks before Amico pulled out the win, 6-4.

The teams played to a 5-4 result earlier in the season.

"We lost to Bethlehem and Niskayuna during the season," Snyder said. "We got lucky and drew them both in the sectionals. We wanted to avenge those losses. We actually lost to Niskayuna worse, 6-3. We came back and beat them, 5-4. We wanted these two matches and we ended up with them."

"The right direction"

The season is not over for all the Dutchmen. Ellenbogen and Bakst have formed a doubles team that is participating in the individual sectional tournament.

The duo reached the semifinals of the tournament that was played on Wednesday.

"My number one and three are coming back tomorrow," Snyder said. "They have a shot to win it all. They wanted to win a sectional title and then go to states. They just need to be in the top three."

Win or lose, Ellenbogen and Bakst will play on Thursday, in either the championship or consolation match.

Losing two matches this season and being the third seed is what a lot of people expected from the Dutchmen this season. But their coach didn’t.

"I’m glad for this team," Snyder said. "We lost some big guns and people were writing us off. They said it was a re-building year. I told the guys that it wasn’t fair to them and that they had to go out and show that they were a good team and it wasn’t a re-building year. That was taking away from these guys. We had a lot of young guys in the line-up and our junior varsity went undefeated this year."

Snyder said that this trip to the finals will pay dividends down the road.

"Our goal was to get back to the sectional finals," the coach said. "The young guys tasted what it is like to get to the finals and now they want to keep on winning."

Guilderland will graduate four seniors in the line-up. Ellenbogen, Griggs, Bakst, and Belostosky will be graduating next month.

"I lose my number one, two, three, and a doubles number-one," Snyder said. "But a lot of other teams are top heavy this year so that bodes well for us for next year. A lot of j.v.’s have juniors on them, ours have mostly freshmen and eighth-graders. The tennis program is going in the right direction."

Lady Dutch streak by Saratoga to advance to final

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — With a five-goal lead early in the second half, Guilderland girls’ lacrosse Coach Gary Chatnik called a timeout.

His team had just given up a sloppy goal and the coach sensed that his players were in a funk.

The timeout worked as Guilderland scored six straight goals and did not give up another until there were 21 seconds to go in the game. The outburst allowed the Lady Dutch to surprisingly cruise to a 14-4 win over Saratoga in the Class A Section II semifinals on Wednesday. Guilderland will play Shaker next Thursday at the University at Albany. The game will start at 7 p.m.

"We were getting sloppy and we needed to settle things down," Chatnik said about calling the timeout. "We had had a sloppy defensive play and Saratoga made a good hustle play."

"That’s what timeouts are for to re-focus," said Guilderland senior Nikki Branchini. "We kind of took over. Our offense got going and we were winning the draw controls. We got it going in time."

Guilderland led at halftime, 7-2. The lead was quickly added to as Abbey Fashouer scored about a minute-and-a-half into the 25-minute period.

The Lady Dutch had more opportunities to score but Saratoga goalie, Erin Delancey, made some good saves including three straight on Guilderland free positions after Blue Streak fouls.

Then Guilderland gave up the sloppy goal on a clearing attempt and Chatnik called the timeout.

Lauren Pescetti scored the goal with an assist from Morgan Powell.

Guilderland responded as ninth-grader Chelsea Newman scored with 12:10 left in the game.

Three minutes later, Courtney Davis followed up with a goal on a strong drive to the cage to make the score, 9-3.

Davis was credited with another goal as a loose ball got into the goal as the Blue Streaks tried to clear it out of their end. Davis scored her third straight goal as she took off from the re-start and ran straight to the goal and fired a shot that found the back of the net.

Guilderland had a nine-goal lead, 12-3.

Davis scored again with 3:54 left in the game and Branchini rounded out the Guilderland scoring with a goal with 2:04 left in the game.

"Defense today"

"It was defense today," Chatnik said. "We ran seven defenders in there. From our attack to defense, our defense was tough. Jen Kaye kept us in it early. She made big saves. We went down, 1-0, but then she made, two, three, and four saves. She made some great saves early on. She did what a goalie is supposed to do. Then we started playing."

Kaye finished the game with five saves before coming out late in the second half. Amanda Santandrea made one save for the Lady Dutch.

Emily Layden scored the first goal of the contest for Saratoga.

Guilderland then got three straight goals from Danielle Tetreault, Branchini, and another from Tetreault. Amanda Best assisted on Tetreault’s second goal.

Tetreault scored again with an assist from Branchini. Saratoga got its second goal but Guilderland scored the final three goals of the half.

Newman, Fashoeur, and Branchini had the tallies. Branchini and Bridget Daley assisted on the final two goals.

The Dutch also got a break when Layden, who will play at Stanford University next year, was given her second yellow card and was forced from the game.

"It made it easier for us," Chatnik said. "We could focus on the rest of their players. They didn’t have their best player so we didn’t have to put our best defender on her. If that doesn’t happen, we can’t slide and take chances with our defense."

On to the finals

Now it is on to the finals for the Lady Dutch. Guilderland lost in the finals in 2005 and the semifinals last year.

The Lady Dutch players were a little surprised to hear that Shaker, not perennial power Bethlehem, would be their opponent.

"It’s exciting," said Branchini, who did not play on the 2005 team. "We can’t take Shaker lightly. We went to five overtimes and barely beat them last time. If they are good enough to beat Bethlehem, they are good enough to beat anybody."

"We had a tough game with them," Chatnik said. "It was no picnic. They have a lot of talent. They are a good team.

"We’ll start looking at them," the coach added. "We have a lot of work cut out for us. It’s the same deal. We’ll take it one at a time. We’ll start planning for them."

With another trip to the finals, comes some added excitement for the team.

"The fans and the support here is great," Branchini said. "This is the biggest crowd we’ve had here all year. It feels good to have all them behind you.

"All the teachers are excited," she added. "They always come up to me and ask how I’m doing. Guilderland sports this year are all doing well."

And as for a trip to the finals in her senior year, the University of Albany bound senior is really up for it.

"I’m excited to be going there," Branchini said. "It’s what we have been working toward all year. It’s what really matters."

Lady Dutch end the season on high note, look to future

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — As the seniors for the Guilderland softball team were honored after Monday’s season finale, it was evident how young the Lady Dutch players are.

Two upperclassmen were honored after the Lady Dutch beat Voorheesville, 9-1, in a non-league game.

"It was a great way to end the season," said Guilderland Coach Jessica Allen. "The girls played very well. They have improved so much from the beginning of the season. They worked well together and support each other."

Jen Ficarra, neé Maxwell, had been the head coach for the Lady Dutch for several years and started as coach at the beginning of the season before going on maternity leave, being replaced by Allen.

The adjustment might have been difficult for a team that had few experienced players.

The only seniors on the team were Amanda Neal and Tricia Loux.

"We’ll miss them," Allen said. "But we have a lot of promise for next year."

Last year, the Lady Dutch made it to the sectional playoffs. This year, they did not qualify after finishing the season with a 5-9 record in the Suburban Council and 6-11 overall. Teams must finish with a .500 or better record to qualify for sectionals.

"Ficarra and I knew we had a young team," Allen said. "The goal is always to go to sectionals. I saw improvements made during the year so I’m not disappointed. As a coach you strive for your players to come together as a team and improve on what the girls are doing."

Grand finale

In Tuesday’s game, the Lady Dutch used the patience of older, experienced players to work 16 walks in the contest. Then they would get the timely hit that led to some runs scored.

Guilderland scored six runs in the bottom of the second inning to take the lead.

Neal led off the inning with a walk and Loux singled to put runners on first and second. Meryl Kremer was hit with a pitch and the bases were loaded.

Rachel Vein walked to allow Neal to score and Lauren Napoli followed with a walk that brought in Loux.

Michelle Giwerc grounded out to shortstop but drove in a run as Kremer crossed the plate.

Marissa Valletta then singled to drive in Vein and Napoli. Valletta scored on an RBI groundout by Neal.

Guilderland scored two runs in the third inning as Vein and Giwerc crossed the plate.

The Dutch’s final run came in the fourth inning. Vein scored again after walking and going home on an RBI single by Valletta.

Deb Schildt had a big game for the Lady Dutch in the pitching circle. She stymied a hot-hitting Voorheesville line-up giving up just one run on three hits.

"Deb Schildt is doing a great job, filling in in a pressure situation," Allen said. "She’s done a phenomenal job. The girls have been there to back her up and support her."

Schildt pitched sparingly this season until last year’s starter, Jen McCutcheon, missed the final weeks of the season due to illness.

"We lost her," Allen said of McCutcheon. "But she is still part of the team. She is encouraging and she’s still with us."

"A lot of bright spots"

Guilderland has a couple of good wins this season that the players on the team will be able to build on.

The Lady Dutch beat a playoff-bound Columbia team in East Greenbush during the season.

"That is probably one of the best games we’ve played if not the best," Allen said.

Guilderland opened the season with a tight win over Ballston Spa.

"We beat them in the first game of the season," Allen said. "It got us going. We had a lot of bright spots."

The Dutch had some bright spots on the field during the season.

Napoli was the lead-off hitter for the Dutch and used her speed on the base paths. She was also solid in the outfield.

"Lauren Napoli had a good year," Allen said. "She was our center fielder and did a tremendous job defensively."

Many Dutch players contributed to hitting the ball during the season.

"We got a lot of good contact this season," Allen said. "We got some key hits. Every night, it came from someone else. Tonight [Tuesday] was a special night. It’s something I like to see."

Allen praised one of her senior’s play throughout the season.

"Tricia Loux has improved her play and skill tremendously," Allen said. "She had two hits tonight. It was extra special in her last game. She deserved them."

The Lady Dutch might be battle-tested for next season.

"We played in a lot of close game," Allen said. "We had a lot of one-run games that could have gone either way.

"We have a lot to build on for next year," Allen said. "We have a lot of potential. We’ll do well next year."

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