Already in exciting and unfamiliar territory, the Niskayuna field hockey team wanted to take its season farther by advancing to the state Class A championship game.
By the smallest margin possible, though, that dream was denied as the Silver Warriors fell to Section III champion Liverpool on penalty strokes in Saturday’s state semifinal at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
Even though Niskayuna controlled the entire first half and large portions of the second half and overtime, it could only manage a 2-2 tie with Liverpool.
“We had our opportunities.” said head coach Alison Broomhead.
With a berth against defending champion Sachem East on the line, they went through six rounds without a resolution. Only in the seventh try – when Liverpool’s Emily Burns converted and Niskayuna’s Ali Frary was stopped – did the long battle end.
Niskayuna shut Liverpool down in the opening 30 minutes, rarely letting them move the ball deep downfield as defenders Stephanie Macri, Elizabeth Diefendorf and Carolyn Connors broke up everything.
As for the Silver Warriors, they made long runs but didn’t get a breakthrough until the 25:22 mark. Off a penalty corner, Alexa Angerami took a feed from Carrie Hanks and cranked a shot from the right side past Liverpool goalie Meghan Evangelista.
That one-goal margin did not hold up for long. Liverpool’s most skilled player, Emma Lamison, found space on the right side and hit a hard shot that Silver Warriors goalie Emily King had no chance to stop to tie the game at 1-1 52 seconds into the second half.
And Lamison wasn’t done. Drawing multiple defenders, she still fought through the resistance and with 13:45 left, she hit a shot to the middle that Morgan Thomas deflected into the cage.
Now trailing 2-1, Niskayuna showed its own steel. An all-out attack late in regulation paid off when Frary’s hard shot from the right side glanced off the stick of Gabrielle Litz and beat Evangelista, tying the score 2-2.
And there the score stayed, despite numerous attacks by the Silver Warriors in the remainder of regulation and 20 minutes of sudden-death, seven-on-seven overtime play. No matter what it tried, Niskayuna could not get that elusive game winner.
“It’s always frustrating when you dominate overtime and don’t put the ball in the cage,” said Broomhead.
Exhausted, the two sides went to penalty strokes. Liverpool had the first stroke in each round, and Lamison converted, as did Niskayuna’s Frary.
But in each of the next three rounds neither side scored as their shots either glanced off the goalies or missed the net, which added to the tension.
When Liverpool’s Jennifer Ryan beat King to put her side up 2-1 in the fifth round, Hanks had to answer. She did, and her goal forced another sudden-death round.
Both sides missed in the sixth round, setting up the decisive blows – one that Burns converted, and one that Frary did not.
Amid the profound disappointment of the defeat, Broomhead said her team’s unprecedented run to the state final four could not be forgotten.
“This game doesn’t define what we accomplished,” she said. “Maybe it didn’t end the way we wanted, but everything else (this season) went the way we wanted.”