BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Preparing to dominate.
That’s how the Shenendehowa girls’ soccer team describes what it has been up to this preseason, a session of the season which ends Tuesday with the Plainsmen’s opener against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
“We want to dominate this season,” said senior Emma Smith, a midfielder. “We want to be the team that everyone looks to.”
A year ago, Shenendehowa bowed out in the semifinals of the Section II Class AA postseason. This year, the Plainsmen are looking for nothing less than a sectional title. To grab that prize, head coach Holli Nirsberger’s squad will rely on talented veterans such as senior midfielder Meghan Cavanaugh and Smith, but also an energetic set of newcomers which includes five sophomores and two freshman.
“We had a couple young kids in mind (to play varsity this season), but a couple other kids came into the tryouts after having breakout offseasons,” Nirsberger said. “They made it during the tryouts that I couldn’t ignore them.”
While Shenendehowa has lots of experienced depth at the midfield and defensive positions, the Plainsmen will look to some of its young newcomers — such as Kelly Hamlin and Ava Sullivan, both sophomore forwards — to give the squad some extra scoring punch.
“We have a lot of amazing strikers and forwards, a lot of speed up there — young speed,” Smith said. “If we put the ball up to them, we know they can beat the defenders. That’s going to be our game.”
Shenendehowa got its first chance to see itself in action at its Shen Scramble scrimmage tournament, played this past Friday and Saturday at the Clifton Common fields. There, the Plainsmen played four different teams in exhibition action and took advantage of the chance to see how its new-look lineup fared against competition outside themselves.
“We expected to be a little more high-intense than we were,” senior midfielder Melissa Rosenthal said. “We started off a little slow, but it was our first scrimmage.”
“This,” said junior defender Amanda Volk, “was a good way to expose what we need to work on.”
Mainly, Nirsberger said, what she wants to see from her team more this season is a willingness to impose its will on opponents. Too often, she said, her team last year let the opposition dictate the terms of a game; this year, she wants the Plainsmen’s aggressive nature to come through right from the start of games in the ultra-competitive Suburban Council.
“There’s talented players and programs out there,” Nirsberger said. “That’s the strength of the Suburban Council. It’s anyone’s game.”
The goal, though, is for the Plainsmen to prove their coach wrong on that final point.
“We want to improve every time we play this year,” Volk said. “Our goal is to dominate every game.”
The Shenendehowa girls’ soccer team’s 2015 schedule:
- Sept. 1, 4:15 p.m.: at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
- Sept. 3, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Averill Park
- Sept. 8, 4:15 p.m.: at Guilderland
- Sept. 10, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Bethlehem
- Sept. 15, 4:30 p.m.: hosts Schenectady
- Sept. 17, 4:15 p.m.: at Ballston Spa
- Sept. 19, 7 p.m.: at Massapequa
- Sept. 24, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Mohonasen
- Sept. 26, 11 a.m.: at Columbia
- Sept. 29, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Colonie
- Oct. 1, 6:45 p.m.: at Albany
- Oct. 6, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Troy
- Oct. 8, 4:15 p.m.: at Shaker
- Oct. 13, 7 p.m.: hosts Niskayuna
- Oct. 15, 7 p.m.: at Saratoga Springs
- Oct. 17, 7 p.m.: hosts Monroe-Woodbury