The Shaker boys lacrosse team learned a lot about itself in the first week of the season.
What the Blue Bison learned is that they have a lot of work to do.
Shaker (0-1 league, 0-2 overall) struggled with ball possession in a pair of losses to Niskayuna and Section IV power Ithaca where it was outscored 25-5.
When we have the ball, we're getting shots off, said Shaker coach Shawn Hennessey. "We just need to start winning face-offs so we can get the ball."
Playing two skilled teams like Niskayuna and Ithaca didn't help the Blue Bison. Whether it was face-offs or ground balls, Shaker couldn't win the battles for the ball.
"Niskayuna and Ithaca are two very good teams that when they get the ball, they don't give it up easily," said Hennessey.
Niskayuna (1-0, 1-1) proved that in its 10-2 victory over Shaker last Wednesday in its Suburban Council opener. The Silver Warriors held the ball for long stretches of time and took high-quality shots. When the Blue Bison had the ball, they were often frustrated by Niskayuna's defense anchored by goaltender Ian Verzoni, who stopped seven of the nine shots he faced.
The saving grace for Shaker was goaltender Kenny O'Connor. The senior made 14 saves on 24 shots.
"He was phenomenal," said Hennessey. "He came up with a lot of big saves [against Niskayuna], and he actually played even better against Ithaca."
O'Connor had to be on top of his game against Ithaca last Saturday at RPI. The Little Red (1-0) rifled 34 shots on net in a 15-3 victory, but O'Connor stopped more shots (19) than he let in.
Unfortunately for O'Connor, Shaker couldn't support him with a lot of goals in the two games. Junior Jimmy O'Brien scored twice in both the Niskayuna and Ithaca games, while senior Ryan Phillips had a goal and an assist in the Ithaca contest. Otherwise, the Blue Bison were shut out.