BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — With frustration mounting from missed chances, and time winding down in a rivalry matchup with Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa field hockey head coach Jeanne Frevola did what the best leaders do: She sacrificed ego for results.
Frevola stood back and let her Plainsmen call their own play on a pivotal penalty corner late in Wednesday’s Suburban Council showdown. The move, she said, was to show confidence in her players that they could get the job done.
And they did.
“Sometimes, that’s all it takes,” said Frevola, whose team topped Saratoga Springs 1-0. “It doesn’t always matter what I think.”
The Plainsmen (8-1, 9-1) opted for one of their most complicated set plays, one that called for several passes before the ball wound up on the stick of senior Emily Fraser. The senior bound for the University at Albany next year looked up.
“And I was yelling, ‘I got you, I got you,’ ” senior teammate Kelly Barkevich said.
A split-second later, Fraser had the ball squirting through a few Saratoga Springs (6-3, 7-3) defenders to a charging Barkevich, who slammed the ball into the goal with 4:04 to play.
“She made it easy for me with the nice pass,” Barkevich said.
Fraser said it was frustrating for the Plainsmen to be kept off the scoreboard until Barkevich’s score, but that the squad was optimistic the chosen corner play would be a winning call.
“Sometimes, we get to call our own corners because we can see better where the defense is flying to,” Fraser said. “So we thought we knew where they were going to go — and, luckily, the play worked.”
When these two teams hooked up earlier this season, Shenendehowa was a 3-2 victor in a more wide-open game. Wednesday’s meeting, played under an overcast sky that occasionally sprinkled rain, was a defensive struggle, one that Saratoga Springs head coach Jo-Anne Hostig said exhibited both teams’ progress since their Sept. 4 meeting.
“We’re both in a different place since then,” said Hostig, whose squad’s 2014 Section II Class A title followed Shenendehowa’s in 2013. “Now, we know a little more about each other and there’s still a few weeks left to go. Hopefully, we’ll see them again at the end, too.”
Both goalies, Saratoga Springs junior Liz McIntyre and Shenendehowa senior Meredith Koziol, made four saves. Koziol made a key stop midway through the second half to preserve her shutout, turning away a point-blank offering from Saratoga Springs junior Sarah Winters.
“Meredith had a great game,” Frevola said. “She’s been playing that way all year in practice and she brought it to the field.”
“My strategy the whole game was to talk as much I could, to communicate as much as possible with my team,” Koziol said.
With the victory, Shenendehowa put itself in even stronger position to secure the top seed for the Section II Class A postseason. With weeks to go before the playoffs — and a potential third meeting with Saratoga Springs — Frevola said she was pleased with Wednesday’s win, but not satisfied.
“We need to get better,” she said.
Her counterpart said that went for her squad, too.
“I don’t think that was either one of our bests yet,” Hostig said.