BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — In a year filled with championship wins, perhaps no individual title was as sweet as the last of the 14 Shenendehowa won.
More than that, the school’s boys’ lacrosse programs hope its 15-14 win May 27 in the Section II Class A championship game against area powerhouse Niskayuna is the start of something big.
“Now we have the expectation to win it again next year,” said goalie Anthony Tebbano, a junior this past year. “That’s our motivation.”
The Plainsmen’s win that night snapped an 81-game winning streak for the Silver Warriors against Section II foes, with several of those victories coming at the expense of Shenendehowa. When the Plainsmen played the Silver Warriors during the 2016 regular season, Shenendehowa sophomore Matt Stucchi said the team was “very nervous” about taking on Niskayuna. Shenendehowa’s 15-14 win in this year’s championship game changed that for the Plainsmen going forward, erasing a mental hurdle for the team to jump next season.
“Going into next year,” Stucchi said, “we know that if we put in the same amount of work that we’re going to be fine and can play with them again.”
Stucchi was one of two Shenendehowa players recently selected as U.S. Lacrosse All-Americans. The other was Matt Cavanaugh, one of the critical pieces leaving the Plainsmen program because of graduation.
“We have a lot of young players that had meaningful minutes this year,” Shenendehowa coach Jason Gifford said. “But we have seniors that are irreplaceable — guys like Dakota Rainville, Matt Cavanaugh, Owen Putman — so there’s big shoes to fill, especially from a leadership standpoint.”
Shenendehowa’s season ended in the first round of the regional playoffs, but work toward next year and replacing the seniors lost to graduation starts this summer during team weight-lifting sessions.
“That’s where the leadership for the next year starts to take hold and build,” Gifford said.
After the 2015 season, the motivation for the Plainsmen came from its upset loss in the area semifinals. The motivation to work toward 2017 comes from a different type of energy.
“This year, winning the sectional final is something to be excited about,” Tebbano said.
“We have that feeling now of being on top which we now want to keep,” Stucchi added. “So we’re just as motivated as last year, really.”
Gifford said he viewed this year’s finish to the season — an 8-7 loss to Lakeland/Panas in the first round of the state playoffs — as a necessary step for his program, which will look to go further next year.
“We have to win regionals first to [then] win the state [championship],” Tebbano said. “That’s the goal for next year.”
In addition to Cavanaugh and Stucchi, Shenendehowa girls’ lacrosse player Lexi Keen also earned an All-American selection.
Keen played goalie for her team, which made it to the Section II Class A semifinals this season.