QUEENSBURY — Several formations of Canada geese flew overhead at Queensbury’s boys soccer practice Thursday, and really, isn’t that the idea? To be practicing when no other fall teams are. When no whistles from adjoining fields interrupt your train of thought. When the only sounds from other animals are from birds who almost always find a way to stay together and move forward.
The Spartans have done just that, and have moved into the State Boys Soccer Tournament for the first time since 1988. They will play Long Island champion Garden City in a Class A semifinal at 4:15 p.m. Saturday at the Middletown High School grass field. The winner of that game reaches the championship at 3 p.m. Sunday on the artificial turf of Faller Field.
The prospect of two games in two days is exciting, but more physically taxing than most teams have had to worry about in a long time.
“That Thursday/Saturday last week was as close as it’s been,” Queensbury coach Pete Crotty said. “That’s why we do all the stuff at the beginning of the season. The guys say, ‘Oh, we’ve got a game tomorrow, why are we still training?’ ‘Because we’re not training for tomorrow, we’re training for October and November.’ You’ve got to be fit at the end of the season.”
The Spartans (21-0) have been the No. 1-ranked Class A team in the state for all but the first poll, all the while driven by a loss in last year’s state regional finals. There were 15 returning players this season, but a few position changes and different starters. Queensbury won some games close (seven wins by a goal) and others by large margins, but — like the geese — stayed together and moved forward.
“We started to get some wins and confidence built up. We stayed humble, but as time went on we just wanted it more and more,” said leading scorer Greg Maccharulo (37 goals, 10 assists), a senior tri-captain.
The 94 goals Queensbury has scored points to its offensive firepower, and despite Maccharulo having 37 of them, 10 other players have scored for the Spartans this season. Also, don’t overlook the mere 11 goals they’ve given up.
Tri-captain Joe Drahos was a new starting back this year, but he said the defense kept building chemistry as the year progressed.
“We trust each other a whole lot to cover our backs,” Drahos said. “We just play confidently. And practicing against, I guess, the No. 1 offense in the state helps.”
And just like when one goose strays from the flock, it doesn’t take too long before he rejoins the formation, Queensbury has adjusted to things.
After splitting time between goalies Charles Vergneres and Ethan Willis most of the year, Vergneres got the starting nod in sectionals. And the Spartans had been relatively major injury-free until losing midfielder Drew Crawford for the season in a regional semifinal win over Watertown. But Julian Tushabe provided solid minutes in the regional final victory over Franklin Academy.
“I can move Greg and Matt (Ricciardelli),” Crotty said. “Teddy (Borgos) can play in the midfield a little bit, Peter (Crawford) can too. We’re flexible in what we can do. It’s just tough when you have to start moving everything around on the fly.”
Garden City (13-2-5) topped Hauppauge 1-0 in a regional final — its fifth consecutive shutout.
“They looked pretty solid, pretty structured,” Crotty said of Garden City. “They look like they’ve got some speed. This team will get up and down the field; they like to counter from what we saw.”
Crotty said his players have been pretty businesslike leading up to the state semifinal, further behaving like the No. 1 team it is.
“We always say if we have our school logo on our shirt in school, you’re representing this No. 1 team in the state, and you’ve got to be respectful and don’t mess around,” Maccharulo said.
“This,” Drahos added, “is the one thing on our minds right now.”