Sunday, October 26, 2014 by Matt Seehusen
With his team in a “win or go home” situation entering the 2014 sectional playoffs, Saratoga captain Noah van Zandt knew he had to make an impact against Schenectady on Friday afternoon. He did. By scoring 2 goals, van Zandt and the Blue Streaks trumped the Patriots 3-0.
“We knew what we had to do coming into this one,” van Zandt said. “We played well and were able to get good scoring chances.”
A first half built on defense had both teams struggling to get a feel on the offensive side of the ball. Schenectady’s back four played tight against Saratoga’s forwards, causing the Blue Streaks to miss on early scoring opportunities. The tight defensive battle continued until midway through the first half, when Saratoga junior Steve Klimek blasted a shot into the top corner of the net, giving the Blue Streaks a 1-0 lead.
“It took us a while to get going,” said Saratoga head coach Jeff Geller. “Steve’s rocket to the top of the net energized the whole team. It turned them into believers, and they played hard the rest of the game”.
Saratoga’s squad of believers came out strong to start the second half. The Blue Streak defense allowed only two Schenectady shots on goal in the second half, all of which landed in the hands of senior goalkeeper Tyler Murray. Saratoga’s offense played with a high level of intensity, generating shot after shot against a tired Schenectady defense. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Saratoga senior Will Turner floated a short pass to van Zandt, who used his left foot to find the back of the net and extend the Blue Streak’s lead to 2.
“Our offense worked well together. We made good passes and connected on them, which opened up the field for more shots” said van Zandt.
With about 10 minutes left in the game, van Zandt made one final highlight reel play. The senior captain scored a low free kick goal against Patriot goaltender Mahmood Sohatee, giving the Blue Streaks a 3-0 lead.
“It was a good kick,” van Zandt said. “It bent low, which made it tough to save.”
With 3 minutes remaining and a big lead, Saratoga had the chance to play all of their subs. The final whistle sounded, and the Blue Streaks had earned their first sectional playoff win in 4 years.
“I was very proud of the boys,” Geller said. “We talked about playing hard for 80 minutes, and they came out and did that”.
The Blue Streaks’ next challenge will come Monday at Guilderland High School, where they seek revenge against a powerful Dutchmen team, who beat them 6-1 earlier in the season.
“Guilderland’s a tough team; they beat us earlier this year, but in the Suburban council, any team on any day can take home the victory. We plan to do that.” said Geller.
“We have all the tools to beat them,” van Zandt said. “If we keep this momentum and play the way we did today, we have a great shot to win.”