BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Coming off the field for a quick break Thursday after scoring her second goal for the Niskayuna girls lacrosse team, Alissa Franze received a warm greeting from her head coach on a cold day.
“You’re playing strong,” bellowed Jason Bach. “I freaking love it.”
There was a lot to love when it came to Franze’s play in Niskayuna’s 13-7 win against Shenendehowa, as the junior tallied seven goals in the Silver Warriors’ biggest win of the season to date.
“This is the first time in four years that we’ve beaten Shen,” said Bach. “I’ve got seniors on this team that had never beaten Shen, so this was a big win for us. This was a big psychological game for us. This was huge.”
It mattered in the standings, too. Both squads had entered the game as the last remaining unbeaten teams in Suburban Council action, so Niskayuna (7-0, 8-0) moved past Shenendehowa (7-1, 7-2) in the league with the win.
Midway through the first half, the Plainsmen had momentum on their side after back-to-back goals from junior Jordyn Marr tied the game at 3. Niskayuna, though, scored the half’s final three goals to stake itself to a 6-3 halftime advantage.
Playing against the speedy Silver Warriors, Shenendehowa struggled, at points, to maintain possession of the ball. Costly turnovers led to several Niskayuna goals in the first half.
“This was not our best effort, not our best execution,” said Shenendehowa head coach Jennifer Sykes. “When you play a team like Niskayuna, you’re going to pay if you don’t handle the ball.”
“They probably had the ball in their (offensive) half for 80 percent of the game,” said Plainsmen senior Rachel Picchi, who scored a pair of goals.
Besides Picchi, Marr scored two goals, while sophomore Lauren Gray, senior Katie Kerner, and sophomore Ava Katinas each scored one.
Sophomore goalie Lexi Keen had 10 saves for Shenendehowa, while her Niskayuna counterpart, sophomore Maya Manchester, also had 10.
The Silver Warriors built their lead to 11-5 before Shenendehowa could mount a late rally with a couple goals. But, after the Plainsmen pulled within four at 11-7, Franze scored her final two goals of the game to help Niskayuna secure the win.
Franze was one of four Niskayuna players to score multiple goals in the contest, as two goals apiece came from junior Marisa DiVietro, senior Bri Sacks, and senior Cat Sexton.
“We all have very good skill sets and we have great chemistry,” Franze said of her team. “We trust each other so much.”
“We have so many stars on this team that we can all share (in scoring) the goals,” said DiVietro, who had scored nine goals in Niskayuna’s 20-0 victory Tuesday against Averill Park.
At the center of it Thursday, though, was Franze. The junior scored three goals in the first half and four in the second to lead Niskayuna to a statement win — but she said after the game she was not sure exactly how many goals she had scored until she was told.
“I was just doing it for the team,” she said. “I don’t keep track.”
Bach said Franze’s outing was the best he could remember getting from her.
“I saw something extra,” said Bach. “She is a phenomenal athlete, anyway, and does a great job for us. Our conversation with her has been about playing stronger and being able to finish — and she did that today. This is the strongest I’ve seen her play.”
Niskayuna scoring (goals – assists)
- Alissa Franze: 7 – 0
- Cat Sexton: 2 – 3
- Marisa DiVietro: 2 – 1
- Bri Sacks: 2 – 1
Shenendehowa scoring (goals – assists)
- Rachel Picchi: 2 – 0
- Jordyn Marr: 2 – 0
- Katie Kerner: 1 – 2
- Lauren Gray: 1 – 0
- Ava Katinas: 1 – 0
- Meg Pendergast: 0 – 1