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Friday, 07 November 2014 09:31

Great Season Comes Up Short

By | Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A 15-game winning streak, a No. 1 seed in the postseason and a second consecutive Section II Class AA finals appearance were three things the Saratoga Springs girls’ soccer team probably didn’t envision when they started the season 1-2.

But that’s what happened.

The stellar win streak in the Suburban Council came to an end after Wednesday’s championship game in Stillwater, as the No. 1 Blue Streaks (14-2-0) fell short to No. 6 Bethlehem, 2-1.

Bethlehem (12-4-2) scored 13 minutes into the match and again shortly after halftime, and the 2-0 deficit was too much for the Saratoga Springs to overcome.

It might have been the only thing the 2014 Blue Streaks didn’t overcome. After avenging a 6-0 loss to Niskayuna in the season opener and a 6-1 loss to Shenendehowa in game three of the season, this year’s team fulfilled and surpassed early fall expectations, while setting the bar high for 2015.

This week’s Q&A is with Blue Streaks head coach Adrienne Dannehy as she reflects on the Section II final and the journey to get there.

Q. What was your impression of the first half and how you guys started the game Wednesday?

A. I don’t think we started well. Our first half—I really don’t know what it was. It was just real flat. We gave up the free kick very early on and we just didn’t go to the ball and they scored, which gave [Bethlehem] the momentum going into halftime. And we didn’t really start picking up momentum ourselves until we scored our own goal. Then they played fantastic. If we had played the last 30 minutes like the first 30 minutes, I don’t think there would have been a discussion.

Q. Did you guys try to make any adjustments at halftime?

A. We just addressed that they had to pick it up. They had to start winning 50-50 balls, which we weren’t winning any of. Even the first 10 minutes of the second half we were kind of on our heels, backing up. Then, we started to bear down and we pushed the ball, like we’re used to doing, and had a beautiful goal. Unfortunately, it was too late.

Q. It obviously didn’t turn out how you had planned, but to get to that point and rattle off 15 straight wins in the Suburban is still pretty impressive.

A. My husband kind of pointed that out to me and said, ‘Did you ever expect, after the first week, that you would get this far and accomplish what you were able to accomplish?’ When you put it in that perspective, yeah we didn’t expect it after the first week, so to be able to do that means these girls really learned something and did the best they could. I think the nerves just got to us at the end. Being young, hopefully we can get there again next year and some of the younger ones will be a little less nervous.

Q.Before the Class AA playoffs started, you said many of the returners reflected on last year’s run to the finals. We’ve talked about the youth of this year’s team. Obviously, you expect many of them to be back next year after getting a taste of the postseason this year.

A. I think last year, those girls who had never been to the finals before, they were in awe of what we accomplished and the fact that we were there. So the girls who were there last year, those were the ones who were calm Wednesday. It was the young ones who were not as sure of themselves and shaky. I’m just hoping that, now, these girls, who are much younger than the younger girls from last year—they have two more years—I’m hoping they can impart a little bit of wisdom to the new girls who are coming up next year. Now we just want to go forward.

Q. But you have made it to back-to-back sectional finals and it seems safe to say that you guys have something figured out here, right?

A. We haven’t figured out how to start the regular season (laughter), but we sure figured out how to end it. Honestly, I don’t even care what happens in the beginning of the season. It’s just there to say, ‘OK, this is what we need to work on.’ You want to peak in sectional time. We started peaking a little earlier, but we honestly didn’t realize we were peaking until the end as we just went on this incredible run. It’s always nice to coach a team that just wants to win, works hard and does their best. That’s all I can ask for.

Q. Is there anything that you learned as a coach this year?

A. Every year you look back and see if there was something you could have done different. I have realized over the last couple weeks that this group of girls, if you put too much pressure on them, they don’t really take it and build on it. Teams in the past would say, ‘This is it. This is the end. If we don’t do it right here, we’re over,’ and that pumped them up. With this group, it was more relaxed. Going into the game relaxing yourself, and I almost think that I put a little too much pressure on them on this particular game. I didn’t put a lot of pressure on them for the Nisky game and they went out and played the game of their lives. Every team is different. As a coach you have to figure out what’s going to motivate them. What I took away from them was that they were much more relaxed when I was relaxed.

Q. We’ve talked about the youth of the team, but do you mind talking about some of the senior leadership one last time?

A. I can’t say more of my senior captains—Ellery Bianco, Kennedy Cocozzo and Theresa Starnes. On each third of the field, those three were there and the girls next year who are coming up definitely have big shoes to fill. Ellery is flashy and direct. Kennedy is very good at cleaning up and trying to get the best out of everybody, and Theresa is a silent person in the middle for me, but her leadership reflects in her gameplay and that motivates the girls. In every aspect, the three of them had something different to give, but they definitely left a lasting impression on all these girls. They’re hoping that they left a good legacy and precedence, and I think they did.

Q. Looking back on this year, what kind of things do you see yourself remembering?

A. I’m going to remember that we scored 53 goals in one season. Doing that in the Suburban Council is beyond nuts. We scored about 30 goals last year and Cassidy Driscoll and Ellery were two of the highest goal scorers. Between the two of them, they scored most of our goals last year. This year, to have it spread out among three (senior Bianco, sophomore Ya’nique Van Ness, sophomore Sarah Covell)—Ellery was the second leading goal scorer and I think YaYa was fourth, which makes me excited for next year. I’m very proud of my girls and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids. They all worked hard and they all wanted to be there. Their perseverance inspires me and I hope they continue to work in the offseason when I’m not with them and we come back, come together, continue this run, and show everybody that we’re here and here to stay. We earned a little respect and we hope that we continue to keep that respect.

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