A season ago, on its way to another state Class A final four appearance, the Burnt Hills/Ballston Lake girls soccer team needed to survive a harrowing penalty-kick shoot-out against Section III champion Jamesville-DeWitt.
That wasn't necessary, though, when the two champions met again Tuesday night in the Class A regional playoffs at West Genesee High School in suburban Syracuse. A superb defense served as the foundation for Burnt Hills' 2-0 victory over the Red Rams.
We knew what was coming and we were prepared for it, said Spartans head coach Brian Bold.
What J-D brought, said Bold, was something Burnt Hils had seen all the time in its tough jaunt through the Suburban Council - namely, a fast, high-powered attack, anchored by junior Tessa Devereaux and sophomore Jessica Holmes.
The Spartans countered with its usual 4-3-3 alignment, with defenders Brianne Hadcock, Sarah Glowa, Nicole Shovely and Kaita Albanese working on the back line and goalkeeper Florie Comley behind them.
Every time Devereaux, Holmes, or any other J-D player roamed into the backfield, the defense clogged things up or cleared the ball out. Eventually, it forced the Rams into longer shots, each of which Comley would scoop up as she would finish with 10 saves on the night.
Burnt Hills' cause was helped even more when, just 8:15 into the game, J-D goalie Emma Esposito could not hold on to a crossing attempt from Bryony Striffler, allowing freshman Morgan Burchardt to push the ball into the open net to give the Spartans a quick 1-0 lead.
Though the Rams controlled the flow of play in the late stages of the first half and much of the second half, it could not pull even. Still, the chance to tie was there going into the late stages as the Spartans' defense tightened even further.
Then, with 6:31 to play, Burnt Hills attacked down the right side and fed a ball to the middle. Esposito ran into one of her own defenders and the ball went loose long enough for Burnt Hills' Skye Kaler to swoop in and shoot it into the open net.
That clinched the Spartans' trip to Potsdam High School to play Section X champion Massena in the Class A regional finals. The winner heads to the state final four on Nov. 19-20 in the Cortland/Homer area.""