BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Schenectady and Shenendehowa are programs at different levels, but each got out of Thursday’s boys’ lacrosse matchup what it needed.
For Shenendehowa, which expects to contend for a Section II Class A championship this season, that meant picking up a season-opening win while seeing its new-look lineup mesh together for the first time at game speed.
“We wanted to make sure our tempo was where we wanted it to be, regardless of who we’re playing,” Shenendehowa senior Dakota Rainville said after his team’s 19-2 victory. “We did a good job with that. We were a little sloppy at times, but we got it together when we needed to.”
“We played fast and got up and down,” said Shenendehowa sophomore Matt Stucchi, who had a game-high five goals. “We played as a team, and that’s the biggest thing.”
Meanwhile, its trip to Brent T. Steuerwald Stadium finished off a tough back-to-back introduction to the Suburban Council for Schenectady. The Patriots lost 15-2 Wednesday to Shaker and did not score against Shenendehowa until the Plainsmen had scored Thursday’s first dozen goals.
Schenectady head coach Matt Marotta said his squad knows it has to take some lumps this season as it acclimates to its new league. Starting off with Shaker and Shenendehowa, he said, does more good than bad for the Patriots.
“This gives our guys a chance to see what the top level of talent is like in the Suburban Council,” said Marotta, whose team takes on Troy and Averill Park in its next two games.
“I’ve been in their shoes before when you’re going up against an opponent that is more seasoned and has better stick skills,” Shenendehowa head coach Jason Gifford said. “You have to learn from it. . . . You need to take something from every opponent you play. Hopefully, they can implement something they learned from playing us and Shaker, and use it down the road.”
Shenendehowa (1-0 SC and overall) wasted no time creating separation between Schenectady (0-2, 0-3) and itself. Rainville scored the Plainsmen’s first two goals within the opening two minutes, and the Plainsmen led 8-0 after a period. Six Shenendehowa players scored multiple goals, and the Plainsmen answered Schenectady’s first score with a behind-the-back shot for a goal from junior Tommy Sullivan.
Another nice Shenendehowa score came from junior Joey Nelsen, a reserve defender who turned a collected ground ball into a goal late in the third quarter. Nelsen was one of several non-senior Plainsmen whom Gifford felt left Thursday’s opener with a surge of confidence.
“Regardless of the opponent, there’s nerves,” Gifford said. “They got their first varsity game under their belts, and they feel good about it.”
Schenectady 0 1 1 0 — 2
Shenendehowa 8 5 5 1 — 19
Schenectady scoring: Mike Avramidis 1-0, Stevie Tchacko 1-0, James Blanchfield 0-1, Alex Rodriguez 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: Matt Stucchi 5-1, Dakota Rainville 2-2, Tommy Sullivan 2-1, Owen Putman 2-1, Mike Lazzaro 2-0, Zack Thomas 1-0, Adam Barcori 1-1, Joey Defeciani 1-1, Geoff Frey 1-1, Joey Nelsen 1-0, Logan Vandenburgh 1-0, Pierce Holohan 0-2, Justin LeBlanc 0-1, Eric Mahkatadze 0-1.
Goalies: Schenectady, Jerey Rivera, 5 saves; Nick Baldeo, 4 saves. Shenendehowa, Anthony Tebbano, 2 saves; Dan McClintock, 1 save.
While Schenectady did not offer the Plainsmen much of an on-field challenge, Gifford said he came away impressed with the Patriots’ resolve.
“They played hard the whole game, and they didn’t get caught up in stuff outside of the game,” Gifford said. “They played lacrosse the whole game.”
That showed in the fourth period. With backup goalie Nick Baldeo inserted into the lineup, Schenectady kept the Plainsmen to one final-period score as Baldeo made four saves.
“In the fourth quarter, they really rallied around Nick,” Marotta said. “I was impressed with that.”
Up next for Shenendehowa is a non-conference game Saturday with Medfield, a Massachusetts school that beat the Plainsmen 13-10 last year. With that game looming, Shenendehowa wanted to make sure it used its opener to shake off any malaise from its extended preseason.
“We were so sick of [playing] one another and wanted to play for ourselves and not against each other,” Stucchi said. “We wanted to come out and play hard together.”