So much of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls soccer team's annual routine is joyful work hard in the off-season, practice even harder in August, grind through a tough regular season, earn a Section II, Class A title and make it to the state final four.
It's only the last part continually running into the most accomplished girls soccer program in state history " that needs any kind of fixing.
For the third year in a row, the Spartans' dreams of a state title expired at the expense of Long Island powerhouse South Side, which prevailed 2-0 in last Friday's class A state semifinal at Tompkins County Community College near Cortland.
Hailing from Rockville Centre, South Side had already crushed the hopes of all kinds of opposing teams on its way to 13 previous state championships, the last three in a row.
In both 2005 (at Union-Endicott) and 2006 (at Homer), the Cyclones denied the Spartans in championship games. Here, they met a round earlier, but the result was exactly the same.
What didn't help was the bitter, winter-like conditions. An overnight snowfall covered the turf at the college, forcing a long process of removal that delayed the game's start for an hour.
When it finally did get started, the bitterness remained " temperatures in the 30s, snow flying through the air and a chilly wind blowing 20 m.p.h., gusting higher at times.
For the first half, Burnt Hills mostly played into that wind, and it showed. South Side utterly dominated the flow of play, not allowing the Spartans to take a single shot.
Meanwhile, the Cyclones' attack did not waste time seizing the advantage. Just 4:12 into the game, Spartan goalie Teegan Kelly could not get a full handle on Alaina Beyar's shot, allowing Crystal Dunn " the Cyclones leading scorer " to poke home the rebound for a 1-0 lead.