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NISKAYUNA: Pace sets tone in Nisky girls' victory

Leanna Pace made certain Niskayuna's first trip to the Section II, Class B girls lacrosse finals would be a successful one.

The junior forward scored a school-record eight goals to lift the Silver Warriors past Averill Park 20-5 in last Thursday's final at the University at Albany.

She was going through their defense and knocking kids over. She was awesome, said Niskayuna coach Peter Melito.

Niskayuna (12-7) had never reached a Sectional final in its previous seasons as a class A team. The Silver Warriors had a chance to reach the semifinals last year, but lost a close game to Saratoga.

"I'm really proud of all of these kids," said Melito. "The commitment they made after the loss to Saratoga was great."

Without the likes of perennial class A powers Saratoga, Bethlehem and Guilderland to worry about, Niskayuna flourished in this year's playoffs. The Silver Warriors shut out Scotia-Glenville 13-0 in the class B semifinals before handling Suburban Council foe Averill Park in the finals.

"They're always prepared to play," Melito said of Averill Park, which also made the jump to class B this year after Section II realigned its girls lacrosse divisions to create a larger class C field. "We knew it was going to be a challenge, but we found a way to click."

Niskayuna clicked early and often against Averill Park. The Silver Warriors jumped out to a 9-3 halftime lead and kept pouring in goals over the final 25 minutes.

Besides Pace's historic night, Niskayuna received big performances from senior Kelsey Lamb and juniors Carly Richards, Allie Pfohl and Laura Plis. Lamb had a hat trick and assisted on another goal, while Richards contributed two goals and four assists. Pfohl and Plis also tallied twice, with Pfohl adding two assists.

Sara Cowan scored twice for Averill Park, but Niskayuna goaltender Karlee Blank otherwise shut down the Warriors' attack. Blank stopped 13 of the 18 shots she faced.

The Silver Warriors' season ended Sunday with an 11-9 regional loss to Section I champion Yorktown, but Melito said his program is heading in the right direction.

"When I started here six years ago, I wanted to win a Sectional title in five years," he said. "It took an extra year, but we'll take it.""

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