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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 1, 2007

Birds battle, but fall short against Mechanicville

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — Again, the girls’ basketball team at Voorheesville pushed another top Colonial Council team to the limit, but just could not find a way to pull off an upset victory.

The Lady Blackbirds scrapped and fought with Mechanicville, the third-place team in the Colonial Council, but came up on the short end of a 48-44 decision on Friday.

"Statistically, we played such a better game than last time," said Voorheesville Coach John McClement. "We cut our turnovers in half. Our free-throw shooting could’ve been a little better. We were 25 of 35 from the line and we missed some looks in the second half that put us over the top. We’ll work at it. We’re progressing and getting better each game. It’s exciting and great to see."

The Blackbirds never led but breathed down the neck of the Red Raiders for the entire game.

Mechanicville led, 13-9, at the end of the first quarter and 24-19 at halftime.

The Red Raiders opened up the lead a little bit in the third quarter, holding a nine-point lead, 39-30, going into the final frame.

But the Blackbirds clawed right back.

Jenna Massaroni scored four straight points for Voorheesville that cut the lead down to five. She scored on a drive to the basket and than knocked down a jump shot to make the score 39-34.

Mechanicville got a foul shot by Lindsey McKeever, but foul shots by Casey Becerra and Courtney Bourque kept the Birds within striking distance.

The teams traded foul shots — Kelly Murphy for the Red Raiders and Becerra for the Blackbirds — before Becky Gronczniak scored on a drive to the basket for Mechanicville, to make the score 44-37.

Alyssa Schultz answered for Voorheesville, hitting two foul shots to cut the lead down to five. Brittany Vogel made a foul shot of her own for the Lady Blackbirds and Bourque made two big foul shots to cut the lead to two points, 44-42, with 2:04 left in the game.

Mechanicville’s Sam Bagnoli hit a jump shot to make the lead four points and Voorheesville couldn’t catch up.

Murphy made a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to clinch the win for the Red Raiders, despite two free throws by Becerra with five seconds left in the contest.

"Getting close"

"We are not playing the way we envision us playing, but we are getting close to that," McClement said. "We struggled with zone [defense] teams. This was the first time we took them out of it. They couldn’t press us; they pulled the press early. And we were able to press the whole game. Defensively, we did a great job. Everybody did well with their match-up."

Murphy had a big game for Mechanicville with 23 points. McKeever added eight for the Red Raiders.

"The kids played well," McClement said. "Eight kids scored. We need some people to step up and get bigger numbers."

Bourque led the Blackbirds with 11 points. Becerra added 10, and Schultz chipped in with eight points. Massaroni, Kara Zimmerman, Katie Bollentin, Vogel, and Kate Prendergast also scored for the Birds.

"We achieved some goals," McClement said of the contest. "We made some shots against them and we battled. On offensive rebounds, we didn’t give up half as many as we did the first time we played them. Statistically, we played a much better game."

Though McClement was happy with the progress, he is not totally satisfied.

"We don’t feel good about the loss," he said. "Now, I feel better, because we came in saying that we wanted to play better. It gives us a chance to win games against teams that are better. We are building up each game and get progress and get better when we finish up with Watervliet."

The Blackbirds have been improving and been competitive with teams, but have not been able to get over the hump.

"We’ve had four games that were one-possession games," McClement said. "In the last two or three minutes we weren’t able to pull it out."

The Blackbirds have just three more games to go in the regular season. The Birds travel to Schalmont on Friday and then wrap up the regular season at home against Cohoes on Tuesday and Watervliet on Feb. 9.

Then it is on to the sectionals, where the Lady Blackbirds have had great success. Voorheesville won eight consecutive sectional titles and nine in 10 years in the late 1990’s until 2004. Voorheesville also won two state titles — 1998 and 2002 — during that run of success.

"We know that the end of the regular season is approaching," McClement said. "Then we know that it starts all over. Depending on your seeding, you just have to win three or four games to win the title. And who knows that better than us" We’ve seen it. The kids still remember. They came to all the games. Hopefully, that is something else that helps us out."

Success comes in individual form for Guilderville

By Tim Matteson

The swimmers on the Guilderville boys’ team are having success this season, even though, at first glance, it doesn’t appear so.

The team that combines swimmers from Guilderland and Voorheesville high schools has just two wins this season but at least half of the swimmers have qualified for the sectional meet that takes place next month.

"We can win events," Guilderville senior co-captain David Cerutti said. "We can take first and second places but we have a lack of depth. We do not have the third- and fourth-place finishers. Scorewise, we try hard. Some of the teams are just powerhouses because they have a lot of depth."

Individual swimmers, though, have met with success.

"More than 10 have qualified for sectionals," said Guilderville Coach Vaclav Sotola of his 20-man team. "For some, it’s their first time, and they’re excited about that. They’re shooting to get in the finals."

One swimmer has already qualified for the state meet due to fast times in races this season. Swimmers, if they make the state standard time in an event, can qualify for the state meet during the regular season and not just have to do it at the sectional meet.

Vadim Yafayev, a junior, has already qualified in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard freestyle. He is also trying to qualify in the 100-yard butterfly.

Yafayev swam 201.04 in the individual medley and swam 49.49 seconds in the freestyle. He needs to surpass 55.38 to make the state meet in the butterfly. He has a best time of 56.05 in that event so far this season.

"He’s been swimming fast and beat the magic time," Sotola said. "In the butterfly, he should make it. He’s competitive."

"What we do is swim for ourselves," Cerutti said. "We know what to expect. Some guys are doing pretty well individually. We have a lot of guys going to sectionals."

Yafayev is just one of three swimmers who compete all year in swimming. Jonathan Wheeler and Michael Schaffer are the others. Most teams in the section have swimmers who compete all year not just during the winter high-school season.

"It’s not easy to compete against swimmers that swim all year like Shenendehowa," Sotola said. "We have kids that come from cross-country or soccer. They are good swimmers and good athletes but it’s hard to compete."

"Swimming their best"

The Guilderville team have just two wins during the season. Guilderville defeated Canajoharie and Albany.

"We’re hoping to beat Ballston Spa," Sotola said. "But you never know. And, hopefully, we can beat [Albany] Academy. We can conceivably have four wins. It’s not a foregone conclusion."

Sotola says it has been a successful season because most of the swimmers have improved their times during the season.

"The kids are swimming better times," Sotola said. "I’m satisfied with that. Winning is good, but the kids are swimming their best times and behaving well. I’m more impressed with that.

"They all are amazing," Sotola said. "The ones that show up every day are improving, no matter who they are. Some could barely swim when the season began and now they’ve improved and gotten better times. They’ve done all sorts of good stuff."

New coach

While Sotola is new to Guilderville, he has coached for more than a quarter of a century.

Sotola started coaching in 1981. He has coached the Albany Starfish club team for about 10 years and also coached at Albany High School and was an assistant coach at Bethlehem High School. He has also coached at the Empire State Games.

"The last few years, because I teach at Canajoharie, I’ve coached modified swimming there for awhile," Sotola said.

Sotola lives in the area and jumped at the opportunity to coach the Guilderville team, this year.

"The job opened and I applied," he said. "It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted to coach in my kids’ home school, even though they don’t swim."

His swimmers have responded to a different coaching style, though Sotola was helped by having six seniors on the team.

It’s definitely a big change," Cerutti said. "The last coach [George Marshall] was here for four years. It’s good to have a different view on your stroke. It’s a different feel. He definitely brings different ideas and thoughts to the table."

Captains Cerutti, Colin Masterson, and Chris Schwartz have helped ease the transition with the new coach.

"Dave Cerutti is a standout guy," Sotola said. "He’s a hard worker. He’s a lacrosse player and not a full-time swimmer. But he’s got a lot of talent and he’s a team leader in the water and out of the water."

Dan Wheeler, a freshman, has had success this season, Sotola said.

"He is swimming out of his shorts," the coach said. "He’s been great in the 50 and 100 freestyle."

Mike Schaffer, an eighth-grader, swims for the YMCA Cyclones during the off-season and is doing a great job in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke, the coach said.

"We have a good bunch of kids on the team," Cerutti said. "We have a group of kids we can rely on. A bunch have stepped up. And the underclassmen group, there has been a lot of improvement by some of the kids."

Cerutti has qualified for sectionals in the 200-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle, the 200 individual medley, the 50 freestyle, the 500 freestyle, and 100 butterfly, and the 100 backstroke.

"Unfortunately, we lose six seniors," Sotola said. "Next year will be interesting. It will be a rebuilding year when you’re talking about losing guys like Cerutti, Schwartz, and the other guys."

The other seniors on the team are Andrew Crowder, Ryan O’Rourke, and Chris Diakiwski.

"Dedicated sport"

"I try to be a mentor," Cerutti said. "We put the kids in line that had to be put in line. Swimming is a really dedicated sport. You have to be there every day at practice or you’re not going to get out of it what you can. We have to make sure everybody is working hard."

"I have heard that there’s a group of younger kids, swimmers that are coming up," Sotola said. "Hopefully, we can replenish some of it for next year."

The Guilderville team will also need more swimmers to come out if they want to be able to compete with the top teams. There are pre-competitive swimming classes in Voorheesville and Sotola is hoping that becomes a feeder program for the Guilderville team. The swimming is from 6 to 7 p.m. and goes for pretty much the entire year.

"We need numbers," Sotola said. "The good ones will stay and the ones that see that it is not for them will not. Hopefully, larger numbers will mean more talent to work with."

Despite losing the majority of their meets, the swimmers are still having a good time.

"I think so," Sotola said. "I have to yell at them from time to time, but then I forget about it in five minutes. No one has made a big deal and there’s been no revolt. Nobody’s told me I’m a god-awful coach. They are getting better times and that’s important. They see the hard work they’re doing is paying off. And that is the best motivator for them."

Dutchmen trying to find a cure for bad luck

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — This might be the worst run of luck in recent history for the Guilderland boys’ basketball team.

Just when Coach Ron Osinski thought he had a full squad, the rug was pulled out from under him. And the Dutchmen couldn’t hold off a tough Shenendehowa team, falling 49-46 on Tuesday night.

Guilderland was missing second-leading scorer Mark Domaracki. His double-figured scoring average would have more than helped the Dutchmen in Tuesday’s game.

The Dutch have had only four games with a full line-up and, in Friday’s game against Burnt Hills, scoring leader Brett Marfurt was coming back from mononucleosis and hurt his ankle in the game.

Domaracki missed his first game of the season because he was sick.

"The biggest problem is that we haven’t had a full team all year long," Osinski said after Tuesday’s game. "The thing is, we’ve had a key player at practice the night before, but then he is out with sickness or injury. We’ve had a series of injuries. There’s no excuses. Someone has to step it up and we have to execute and make plays. I’m not sure we did that in the second half."

The Dutch were missing playmaker Drew Smith with an injured hand for most of the season. He played in just his fifth game since coming back from the injury.

Strong start

Guilderland came out strong in the first half and had the lead for the entire first 16 minutes. The Dutch led, 15-9, at the end of the first quarter and 28-23 at halftime.

But Shenendehowa put together a comeback that got started in the third quarter.

Shen tied the game on a three-pointer by Todd Degnan and got its first lead of the game on an inside basket by Michael Schauffert with 5:01 left in the third frame.

Shen led, 38-35, at the end of the stanza.

Shen led by five points early in the fourth quarter when Guilderland’s Taylor Walden hit a pair of big shots. He knocked down a jump shot from the left side and then a few seconds later banged in a three-point shot that tied the game, 40-40.

Shen took a three-point lead on an inside basket by Schauffert who was fouled. He converted the free throw.

Marfurt hit a three-point shot to tie the game again, 43-43, with just under five minutes left in the contest.

Shen got the lead on an inside basket by David Burke. But the lead was gone quickly as Dan Gejay made a three-pointer to give the Dutch the lead, 46-45, with 2:48 left.

A sloppy play by the Dutchmen led to a fast-break lay-up by Degnan, giving the Plainsmen a one-point lead. Mike Hammond scored after grabbing a rebound on Shen’s next possession and the lead was up to three points.

The Dutch got the ball back in the final seconds and, after a pair of timeouts, Smith got the ball in his hands for a three-point shot that glanced off the rim and then Shen held on for the win.

"You have to credit them," Osinski said of Shen. "They made plays"This was a big loss. We both needed this game to get a good spot in sectionals."

Degnan led all scorers with 17 points for the Plainsmen. Schauffert added 15 for the visitors.

Guilderland was led by Marfurt’s 15 points. Walden added 13 and Gejay chipped in with nine points.

"Taylor Walden had a big game," Osinski said. "He was in double-digits and, if he had not been, we would not have been where we were. Some other guys missed lay-ups early. You miss open lay-ups, it comes back to haunt you."

"A lot of adversity"

The Dutch lost their chance to get a high seed for the sectional playoffs. They need to garner points to get one of the higher seeds out of the Suburban Council.

"We’ve made our bed this year," Osinski said. "We’ve had a lot of adversity to last longer than a year. We’ve lost five games out of the division and those are two-point games. That’s potentially 10 points we could’ve had. We don’t have a chance to get those points back. I’m disappointed in tonight’s loss.

"The kids, I could see it in their faces," Osinski said. "They’re thinking, ‘We’re down another guy again.’ People keep saying that we are getting healthy at the right time. We’ll see. We’ve got tough teams to play."

The Dutch have an overall record of 10-6 and are 7-5 in Suburban Council. Guilderland has just two games left in the regular season. The Dutchmen play Columbia on Friday at home and at Bethlehem on Tuesday in Gold Division games.

Osinski is hoping to have his full line-up by then.

"We have guys playing out of position," the coach said. "Mark has been here all year. So, we have kids doing things they normally don’t."

Dutch fight hard, but winning streak ends

GUILDERLAND — The winning streak came to an end for the Guilderland girls’ basketball team. But the Lady Dutch put up a fight against one of the Suburban Council elite.

Guilderland had won nine straight games heading into Tuesday’s contest at Shenendehowa, the leaders in the league. The Lady Dutch showed that they should be considered one of the better teams in the league as well.

A late basket by Shen propelled the Plainswomen to a 51-47 win over the Lady Dutch.

Guilderland trailed in the fourth quarter after leading for the majority of the game. The Lady Dutch took the lead again with just over 30 seconds left. Guard Jen Madsen made a shot and was fouled, then converted the free throw to give the Dutch a 47-44 lead.

Shen scored seven points in the final 30 seconds to pull out the victory.

Guilderland was led by Kristin Pezze’s 18 points. Danielle Burns added nine for the Lady Dutch.

Guilderland was up 16-8 at the end of the first quarter and 25-21 at halftime.

On Friday, the Lady Dutch won their ninth game in a row, defeating Burnt Hills, 39-27.

After trailing at the end of the first quarter, 10-6, the Dutch took over the next three quarters to pull out the win.

Guilderland held Burnt Hills to 17 points in the final three frames and scored 25 points in the second and third quarters.

Pezze led the Dutch with 15 points. Mary Kate O’Connell added 10 and Nikki Branchini chipped in with six points.

Guilderland has an overall record of 12-4 and is 9-3 in the Suburban Council. The Dutch hold a slight lead over Columbia High School in the Gold Division and the two teams meet in Renssealaer County on Friday. The Dutch will be looking to avenge an early-season loss to the Blue Devils.

Guilderland then wraps up the regular season, hosting Bethlehem on Tuesday.

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