BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Tougher times were coming, the Shenendehowa girls’ lacrosse team knew that. After winning its first five league games with a combined 96-10 margin, the schedule had to get more difficult.
Head coach Jen Sykes’ team pulled off a last-second 7-6 win April 21 against Bethlehem in the first game of the span of the 2016 season which will largely determine the Plainsmen’s fate for the Section II Class A playoffs as the May 18 seeding meeting approaches. But Shenendehowa struggled after beating Bethlehem, as the Plainsmen lost their final three games of April against Guilderland, Niskayuna and Saratoga Springs.
But that’s not a cause for alarm, just a call to get back to work. After cruising through last year’s regular season before unraveling in last year’s area title game, Shenendehowa senior Meg Pendergast said the Plainsmen are not panicking about hitting a rough patch in late April.
“We know we have time to fix things,” Pendergast said. “We know what we need to fix and we have games left to do it. We’re going to keep working on them, and perfecting them.”
Shenendehowa lost 12-4 to Guilderland, 6-4 to Niskayuna and 10-9 to Saratoga Springs. Through playing better competition, though, Sykes said the Plainsmen were able to get a better handle on themselves.
“We’re finally getting to where we’re a bit more consistent with our lineups and we’re starting to find our identity more,” she said.
Shenendehowa — 7-5 through May 2 — showed what it does best in its April 27 game against Niskayuna, a squad which has not lost within Section II play since 2014. After falling behind 3-0, the Plainsmen rallied the tie the score at 3 — and then 4 — using a conservative approach that relied on their defense and junior goalie Lexi Keen, who made 16 stops in the game.
“Our defense is phenomenal,” Sykes said.
One of the players making it that way is senior Courtney Guiry, who missed much of this past winter’s basketball season with a left foot injury. Guiry said her injury started out as a stress fracture and eventually required surgery. She missed some action early in her lacrosse season, but has recovered well enough to help anchor the Shenendehowa defense.
“You’ve got to grind through it,” Guiry said of any lingering pain in her foot. “I just really wanted to get out there and play. The turf is better for it than grass, that’s for sure. It still bothers me sometimes, but I put that out of mind. Winning is more important, stopping my girl is more important.”
After its loss against Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa had four games remaining on its schedule, including three against Suburban Council foes. That means the Plainsmen have time to right their ship before the postseason arrives, with four chances to do what they need most to get their confidence back on an upswing.
“We have to get some wins,” Sykes said.