Guilderland's Chris Connolly, center, heads the ball during Thursday's Section II Class AA semifinal game against Shaker at Colonie Central High School.
Photo by Rob Jonas.
COLONIE Connor O’Brien specializes in corner kicks, and Chris Czekay specializes in converting them into goals.
The Guilderland duo teamed up to score a goal off a set piece for the fourth time this season, which was enough for the third-seeded Dutchmen (14-4-0) to defeat No. 2 seed Shaker 1-0 in Thursday’s Section II Class AA boys soccer semifinal at Colonie Central High School.
Guilderland’s reward was its first appearance in a Sectional final since 2008. The Dutchmen meet Big 10 champion Albany in Monday’s Class AA championship game at Colonie after the fifth-seeded Falcons stunned top-seeded Shenendehowa 2-1 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
“We feel blessed to be here, and we feel happy that we are fortunate enough to move on,” said Guilderland coach Mike Kinnally.
O’Brien had six corner kicks in the semifinal against Shaker (14-4-0), most of which curled in on goal. The one that Czekay converted into the lone point of the match was a service that remained high enough for the senior midfielder to head past goaltender Tommy Macutek 10 minutes into the second half.
“He’s given us numerous opportunities all year,” Czekay said of O’Brien, who has set up seven Guilderland goals via the corner kick this season. “Every set piece is a dangerous opportunity for us.”
“Practice makes perfect,” said O’Brien. “I just try to hit it to the same spot every time.”
Shaker attempted several times to get the equalizer, but Guilderland’s defense prevented the Blue Bison from generating any serious challenges on goaltender Kedrick Weeden, who needed to make only two saves to pick up the shutout.
“The boys fought hard from the first whistle to the last,” said Shaker coach Dan Fountain. “We generated four or five opportunities in the (penalty) box that we didn’t capitalize on.”
Macutek had eight saves for Shaker, including several in the first half that kept the game scoreless at halftime.