BY MICHAEL KELLY
SCHUYLERVILLE — Make no mistake about it, the Shenendehowa field hockey team enjoyed each of its first two wins earlier this season against archrival Saratoga Springs.
But the only win that really mattered to the Plainsmen this season against Saratoga Springs was the one they earned Sunday, a 2-1 victory in the Section II Class A championship game that helped head coach Jeanne Frevola’s program finally unburden itself from the disappointment of last year’s title-game loss.
“We always had that in the back of our minds throughout the whole season,” Shenendehowa senior Emily Fraser said of last year’s 1-0 loss to the Blue Streaks.
“I woke up this morning and I thought about last year,” Shenendehowa junior Taryn Marra said. “I said to myself, ‘We can’t lose this again.’ ”
Marra helped make sure of that. The junior assisted senior Kelly Quinn’s opening goal for the Plainsmen, while Quinn returned the favor for Marra’s game-winning goal with 14:36 left in the first half.
“We came out like maniacs in the first half,” said Frevola, whose team’s goals sandwiched a score from Saratoga Springs senior Marisa Larkin, off an assist from junior Mimi Liebers.
No. 1 Shenendehowa (17-1) thoroughly controlled play in the first half before much more even play reigned after intermission. After its loss, No. 2 Saratoga Springs (13-5) head coach Jo-Anne Hostig praised her team — which sported only four seniors — for bending but not breaking in that first half before turning things around in the second.
“It could have been a lot more, and it wasn’t,” said Hostig, whose junior goalie Liz McIntyre made nine saves. “I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Shenendehowa had twice beat Saratoga Springs in the regular season, each time by a goal. While the maxim suggests beating the same team three times is never easy, Quinn said her Plainsmen took confidence from its first pair of wins against the Blue Streaks.
“We’d already proved we could do it, so we just had to come out here and prove to everyone else that we could do it again,” Quinn said.
A frenetic first half gave way to a conservative second, as Shenendehowa relied more on its defense to secure the victory after executing an aggressive first-half game plan. Senior Kelly Barkevich and junior Kelly Buckley made several big plays on defense for Shenendehowa in the second half, while senior goalie Meredith Koziol made five of her seven saves in that stanza.
“The time was going so slow when we were on defense, but Meredith Koziol stepped up really big for us in cage,” Fraser said.
While kept from scoring, Frevola credited Fraser for attracting substantial attention from the Saratoga Springs defense.
“Emily Fraser was wonderful, as usual,” Frevola said of her UAlbany-bound star. “She had a really good game. She’s great . . . and she didn’t try to do it all herself. She passed the ball to her teammates and she let other people do some of the work which is really important.”
Shenendehowa will play Sunday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in regional competition. That game will get the Plainsmen’s full attention starting today, but Fraser said Sunday was all about her team relishing the win from a game it had wanted to play for the past year.
“To come back [this year] and win this game is so big for us,” she said. “It means the world to us.”