chance to crash the party.
That’s the way the Times Union summarized
Albany High's playoff chances in its midseason report on Section II
boys' soccer in early October. And that's what coach Dave Weiss and the
Falcons worked toward again this fall – preparing for a 2011 playoff
run that would break the decades-long Suburban Council stranglehold on
the Class AA championship.
Led by talented seniors Marty Ryan and Stefano
Sainato, the Falcons' party preparations included their second Big
10 championship in the last three years (that's them celebrating
with the trophy after their final regular-season game Oct. 24).
They clinched the title with a well-played 1-0 win at
second-place Troy on Oct. 22, setting off a jubilant celebration
when Sainato scored his 20th goal of the season with 2:52 left in the
Tricky fall weather took over for the next couple of games. The Falcons closed the
regular season with a scoreless tie in the rematch with Troy on a rainy
night Oct. 24, then had their first-round game against Saratoga Springs
snowed-out on Oct. 29.
None of that mattered when the playoff opener finally came Halloween
Sainato set up Thang Moung for a score less than eight minutes in and
then added two more first-half goals of his own to lead Albany High to a
3-1 win over the Blue Streaks at The College of St. Rose's Plumeri
Sports Complex at Hoffman Park.
Check out the Nov. 1 Times Union to read more
about the win.
Less than 24 hours later the Falcons were back on
the field on a gorgeous fall afternoon Nov. 1 to
face Suburban Council fourth-seed Guilderland in the
quarterinfals at Colonie High School.
scored twice in the span of about one minute midway
through the second half to send
the Falcons to a
season-ending 2-0 loss.
The Falcons (13-4-1) played the
evenly most of the afternoon but could not break
through to score.
Click here to check out photos from the
In addition to the Big 10
title this fall, the Falcons' party preparations also included two closely
contested non-league losses at Utica Proctor (3-1) and 2009 Class AA
state champion Newburgh Free Academy (2-0) -- currently tied for No. 20 in the statewide rankings -- as well as a pair of evenly played
preseason scrimmages with perennial local powers
Shen and Bethlehem, ranked No. 7 and No. 13, respectively, in the
final regular-season state Class AA poll.
“We’re right there,” said Weiss, whose first Albany
High team in 2007 became the first Big 10 team since 1982 (also Albany
High) to reach the Class AA semifinals. “We deserve to be there.”
Meanwhile, the Albany High JV boys also won the Big 10 title -- for
the fifth consecutive season under coach Andy Hasty. The JV Falcons
finished undefeated in the conference for the second year in a row led
by a talented group of sophomores and leading scorer Erick Kwizera, a
For the varsity, in 2007 the Falcons outlasted Suburban opponents
Colonie and Saratoga Springs to reach the semis, where they fell 1-0 on
a late goal to eventual champion Niskayuna. With strong senior
leadership, that team willed itself to those two overtime playoff wins
and within a whisper of the final.
Two years later, after an unbeaten Big 10 season, the
Falcons beat Columbia before falling to Guilderland in the second round.
Led by a suffocating defense and again strong senior leaders, that team
exceeded expectations to get within one win of returning to the final
This year, fueled once again by a strong group of
seniors, the Falcons showed up for preseason practice in August looking
ahead to November.
“This year we are meeting expectations,” Weiss said.
“But the expectation is much higher.”
That was due in large part to Weiss’ dynamic duo, Ryan
and Sainato, two of the area’s best players.
Ryan was a first-team
Times Union all-star and a
fourth-team all-state selection as a junior. He began the season at his
familiar center midfield position – his third year as a varsity starter
there – but moved back to defense in a midseason realignment to shore up
the back in front of sophomore goalie Lucas Phayre-Gonzalez.
That move paid dividends.
With Ryan anchoring a revamped defense that also
included senior Seamus Daniels and German exchange student Johannes
Grunow, the Falcons shut out seven of their last eight Big 10 opponents
and outscored their conference opponents 30-1 in that stretch.
Up front, Sainato was one of the most lethal scorers in the Capital
Region. Supported by Albany High’s deepest and most talented group of
midfielders in many years, Sainato finished the regular season tied for sixth in the area with
20 goals. The Times Union featured Sainato on Oct. 25;
click here to read that story. He finished with 22 goals in 17 games.
“Both boys are terrific young men; hard-working, dedicated, humble,”
Weiss said of Ryan and Sainato. “They are very driven this season to
achieve on and off the field. They are arguably the top two players in
the Big 10 and will be extremely difficult to replace after graduation.”
And then another group of
Falcons will begin working to crash the 2012 Class AA soccer party.