BH-BL field hockey team surges into contention

Vrooman continues to look for improvement as Sectionals approach

— The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey team is enjoying a renaissance season.

With four games left in the regular season, the Lady Spartans own an 8-4 Suburban Council record – their best in several years, and more wins than the last three years combined.

“Before I came into the program, they were 1-13 in 2008 and 0-14 in 2009,” said BH-BL coach Kelly Vrooman. “We had four wins in my first year last season.”

Two newcomers have had a big impact on the Lady Spartans this season. Junior forward Amy LeBel came over from the highly-successful girls soccer program and has quickly become one of the field hockey team’s leading scorers, and sophomore Shauna Ryan has established herself as a solid starting goaltender.

“We’ve got a really strong front line overall,” said Vrooman, who coached at Guilderland before coming back to her high school alma mater in 2010. “Our wings are very instrumental in getting the ball up the field to our forwards.”

Anchored by LeBel and senior Rose Carr up front and Ryan and sophomore Ashley LaMere on defense, BH-BL has had its most competitive Suburban Council season since the program’s heyday in the 1980s, when Vrooman helped the Lady Spartans win the 1987 state title.

“The hardest thing was to get them to believe in themselves and to get them to go that extra inch to get the ball in the goal,” said Vrooman.

The Lady Spartans looked to make a Sectional statement Tuesday night when they hosted Class B power Johnstown in a non-league game. BH-BL is in line for a top-four seed for the Section II playoffs, as are Johnstown and Foothills Council leader Glens Falls.

“The strong ones, as always, are Glens Falls and Johnstown,” said Vrooman. “We’ll take it one game at a time and see what happens.”

BH-BL has seen plenty of tough competition within the Suburban Council after playing Class A powers Niskayuna, Shenendehowa and Saratoga Springs. And though the Lady Spartans have lost to those teams, they have defeated the rest of the league, which has boosted their confidence level.

Still, Vrooman said she wants to see more out of her team as Sectionals approach,

“I think we can do more, [and] I think we can do better,” said Vrooman. “We’re almost there, but we just have to change the mindset a little bit.”

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