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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 16, 2008
Dutch still unbeaten
By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND Dutchmen varsity soccer coach, Mike Kinnally, reminds his players frequently that the team is capable of losing every game it plays. This scenario just hasn’t occurred yet.
“We played about 25 minutes of good soccer tonight,” said Kinnally on Tuesday after another victory. “Columbia was just another hungry team that wanted to take us out. We have to play better than this if we want to go far in the playoffs.”
Columbia is a three-win team that has lost a handful of one-goal games this year. Guilderland beat the Blue Devils, 3-1, on Sept. 16.
The Dutchmen handed Columbia another one-goal loss, with a 3-to-2 final score under the Guilderland lights on Tuesday. The team moved to 16-0 on the season, 14-0 in the Suburban Council.
“They’re definitely a dangerous team to play,” said Columbia Coach Hank Wysocki about Guilderland. “We did a good job staying with them, but they were too talented in the long run.”
Senior Night got off to a good start when the Dutch broke out with a two-goal lead in the first four minutes of the match. First, Sahr Nyuma put in a Pat Quinn rebound. Then, seconds later, Ryan Ashbaugh put his foot on another Quinn cross.
“We’ve had a healthy offensive attack all season,” Kinnally said. “We have five guys with at least five goals. Nyuma has 13 or so. We’re starting to spread it around.”
Scoring chances were at a premium in the first half. Guilderland had a corner kick punched out by the Blue Devils’ goalie, Kyle Breen. Columbia had a header go over the cross bar. The Dutchmen’s Rory Nunamacher ripped a shot just wide.
The crowd gasped when Guilderland’s Tony Campagnano whaled a cross off Nyuma’s head, missing by mere inches. “My players work very hard and there is never a dull moment,” said Kinnally.
The Blue Devils caught a break in the final minutes of the first half when the Dutchmen were called for a handball in the box. The call wasn’t visible from the sideline, but Columbia was awarded the penalty kick. Jake Persons put it past a diving Devin Bailey.
Guilderland had a 2-to-1 lead at halftime.
Bailey has been solid all year long with nine shutouts, but giving up a penalty kick can swing a keeper’s mood. “Giving up a penalty kick is never fun and it’s never the goalie’s fault,” Kinnally said. “Bailey’s emotion definitely changed after that goal.”
Kinnally is concerned with his defense “not playing as a unit” this season. Defensive shape is an important issue in the game of soccer.
“My defense doesn’t talk enough. The only time I’ve heard them say anything is during our big wins against Bethlehem and Shenedehowa,” Kinnally said. “I think it might be a lack of personality and leadership back there. Last year, we had two guys that were very vocal and they basically carried the team.”
“One game at a time”
The second half began with a goalie change for Columbia. Ben Tidd replaced Breen, who had injured his hand in the first half. Also, both sidelines seemed to be disgruntled with the officiating.
Not even two minutes into the half, Guilderland scored a goal to take a 3-to-1 lead. Quinn hit another beautiful cross and Campagnano was there for the tally. It was an interesting turn-around move that ended with a lost shoe.
The Dutchmen seemed to have control of the game, but the Blue Devils showed no sign of lying down. Columbia kept pressure on Bailey and moderately outplayed Guilderland in the final half.
The Blue Devils’ James Vooris dribbled right through the defense, but Jonathan Wheeler cleared it before he could get off a shot.
An odd goal was scored by Columbia with 11 minutes to go in the game. Ethan Rudat placed a perfect direct kick over Bailey’s head from 45 yards away. The fans fell silent as Guilderland had a one-goal lead, 3-2.
With five minutes left, Bailey poked out a sure header by the Blue Devils’ Matt Mead. The resulting corner kick was busted.
“We weren’t playing so well towards the end,” said Quinn. “Bailey’s save was a real gift; it lifted us up.”
Guilderland would keep Columbia away from the net in the final minutes, securing the 3-to-2 victory and keeping the team undefeated.
The Dutch players have gotten a lot of attention but have kept level heads. “We try not to think about the unbeaten streak,” said Kip Stillman. “We focus on the small steps and take it one game at a time.”
“We played quite sloppy tonight, but we’re good enough athletes to win games,” said Kinnally.
The team knew something special was going on when it beat Bethlehem and Shenendehowa. “We shut Bethlehem out and stunned Shen,” Kinnally said. “If we can play at that intensity in the sectionals, I’ll feel pretty good about our chances.”
The media attention has brought a ton of pressure to the team and has taken an emotional toll. “If you start reading about yourself, you might as well lose,” said Kinnally.
The only label Guilderland wants is a number-one seed in the sectionals. “What is the trade off if we go undefeated?” asked Kinnally. “If we lose in the sectionals, then it wasn’t worth it. All this recognition can go away as fast it came. That’s what I tell my players all the time.”
The training and practice gives Guilderland players open minds as they try not to worry about the streak. “These kids are really good at supporting each other on and off the field,” Kinnally said. “We’re not a bunch of ‘chest-beaters’ that get a big head about winning. We’re a technical squad that keeps it blue collar.”
The Dutchmen are currently ranked fourth in the state and the team is capable of reaching the state finals.
“Anything beyond sectionals would be gravy; Class AA sectional title is our goal,” said Kinnally. “States is a whole different environment. It would be against my morals to think that far ahead.”
The Guilderland coach needs his team to outwork the other opponents, finish opportunities, and play better defense to have a successful run in the playoffs. “We can’t play like we did against Columbia tonight. If we do, we’re toast,” said Kinnally.
Guilderland has two games remaining. It travels to Bethlehem today and has a make up game at Niskayuna.
“We have a huge target on our back. Every team wants what we have,” Kinnally said. “Going undefeated would be special, but we’re one big mistake away from a loss.”