Dutch set the tone in first-game victory

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Open season: Guilderland sophomore Breanne Ford, left, tries to outrun a Bethlehem defender on Tuesday during the first Suburban Council soccer game of 2013 for both teams. The Dutch won, 1 to 0. Ford, new to the varsity team, shone throughout the game as a starting forward on the wing.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Head traffic: The Guilderland girls’ soccer team started its Class AA title defense on Tuesday with a 1-to-0 home victory over Bethlehem. Here, Dutch seniors Mackenzie Lozano (#11) and Brittney Pulliam (#23) fight with two Eagles’ players for a head ball. Pulliam had an assist in the game.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Straight shot: Alyssa Kogelmann, who scored the only goal for Guilderland in a 1-to-0 win over Bethlehem, powers through the soccer ball on Tuesday. The Dutch won its first-ever sectional championship last year, advancing to the state semifinals, and returned 14 players for this season.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Far reach: Guilderland renewed its rivalry with Bethlehem on Tuesday to open the 2013 soccer season, winning, 1 to 0, at home. Here, Sara Kogelmann comes from behind to get her foot on the ball.

GUILDERLAND — With fresh new uniforms and a champion’s glow, the Guilderland girls’ soccer team started its season off on the right foot.

In fact, a great shot from Alyssa Kogelmann’s right foot is all the Dutch needed for a 1-to-0 victory over rival Bethlehem. Kogelmann spun, planted, and sent an arching score into the top far corner of the goal.

Guilderland’s stalwart defense and heady midfield play took care of the rest as Tuesday marked the beginning of the team’s Class AA title defense. The Dutch expect to do well again this year, and, judging by the live cable television cameras at Snyder Field, so does everyone else.

“We’ve always been kind of an underdog,” said senior Emily Center, Guilderland’s sweeping enforcer on defense. “Obviously, after winning a championship, there’s going to be pressure on us.”

Head Coach Curtis Snyder — the field is named after his father, Don, who founded the soccer program at Guilderland — said that the pressure to do well doesn’t come from him or Guilderland High School. The players want to experience the same triumph as 2012, so it weighs heavily on them. The Dutch retained two-thirds of its roster.

“Last year, we were always climbing the mountain, trying to unseat the other teams,” said Snyder. “Now, we’re up there, and everyone wants to beat the champion. We can’t let down this year. We have to play every game hard because everyone wants a crack at us.”

Guilderland is not used to having a regular-season game televised, let alone its first Suburban Council bout of the year. Still, the Dutch didn’t seem nervous before Tuesday’s contest.

“It brought more excitement to the game,” said senior goalkeeper Carli Weinberg. “Playing Bethlehem is always a big deal, but having it on TV made it so much more.”

Snyder said Guilderland expected a “battle” from Bethlehem, but the Dutch controlled possession in the first half, widening the field with quick passes while increasing pressure on the Eagles’ goal. Sophomore Breanne Ford, a new addition for Guilderland, was a force to be reckoned with out on the wing at forward; she consistently pushed the ball ahead.

“She’s tough,” Snyder said of Ford, who was a starter at Tuesday’s game. “She’s so feisty, and always playing at 100 percent.”

The graduation of nine Dutch players from last year has left some room for competition within the team. Snyder didn’t decide on the starting line-up until right before Tuesday’s game, and Weinberg shared goalkeeper duties with sophomore Taylor Dorado.

Also, sophomore Karly Meacham, new to the team, started on defense for the Dutch.

“Things change with each practice, so I go with my gut feeling,” Snyder said. “When you start two sophomores, and they contribute to the team right away, it pushes the older girls. It’s good; they’re fighting for minutes.”

Playing practically the entire game on Tuesday, senior Lauren Kogelmann and junior Rebecca Golderman managed the game with strong midfield play. With Emma Oliver up top at forward, and Center in back on defense, Guilderland has four solid players to build around.

“They’re very experienced, great athletes,” said Snyder, “who have a nose for the soccer ball.”

Kogelmann said that she and Golderman started gelling as a midfield duo last year.

“They’re a big part of our game,” Weinberg said.

“We need to step things up this year,” Kogelmann added. “Everyone’s eyes are on us, and we’re not coming from behind this time. We’re at the top.”

Guilderland is the team that the rest of Class AA will be trying to knock down, but opponents will have to infiltrate the Dutch’s defense, which didn’t give much on Tuesday. Bethlehem’s scoring chances came off of set free kicks, and it didn’t have many.

“We held strong,” Snyder said of Guilderland’s defense. “That’s a good sign. We’re going to be solid again.”

Center told The Enterprise that the Dutch always hunt for the ball. Guilderland expects to play hard, and is hoping to repeat as the Section 2 champion.

“It’s better than chasing one,” Snyder said with a chuckle. “We’re going to see how competitive we are, and today was a good way to set the tone. We have some flaws, but they weren’t exploited.”

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Tuesday's soccer game between Guilderland and Bethlehem was scoreless, but then Matt Schiller used his head.

Ahead of Guilderland’s season-opening game at Bethlehem (Guilderland lost, 3-1) on Wednesday, Head Coach Curtis Snyder said that his team was more in shape than at this point last year.