Amsterdam’s Delianna Figueroa (8) and South Glens Falls’ Savannah Kreppein (21) chase down a loose ball during Wednesday’s game at Lynch Literacy Academy. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)

By ADAM SHINDER

@RecorderShinder

Successful soccer tends to spring from controlling the game in the center of midfield, and that’s exactly where the Amsterdam High School girls had their biggest problem Wednesday as they opened their Foothills Council schedule against the South Glens Falls Lady Bulldogs at Lynch Literacy Academy.

South Glens Falls dominated possession in the middle of the field, winning the vast majority of contested balls in that area and using that to their advantage to notch the first two goals of a 3-0 win over the Lady Rams.

“We’ve always had a huge issue in the middle of the field trying to keep the ball down,” Amsterdam coach Jessica Byerwalters said. “Eventually, it just became kicking the ball back and forth like we were practicing long balls with the other team.”

Amsterdam’s defense, led by Gabby Stanavich, Delianna Figueroa and goalkeeper Jareymarie Aponte, held strong for most of the game and used its offsides trap successfully on a half-dozen occasions to spoil South Glens Falls breakaway attempts, but the Lady Rams (1-1, 0-1 Foothills) did so much defending that they finally relented and allowed the Lady Bulldogs to put in their three goals in less than 13 minutes between the end of the first half and the start of the second half.

South Glens Falls put on consistent pressure throughout the first half, but didn’t crack the Amsterdam defense until there were just five minutes and 33 seconds left until halftime. The Lady Rams foiled an attack down the left wing, but Amsterdam’s clearing attempt was easily collected by South Glens Falls in the midfield and the ball was quickly recycled until Amya Naja teed up Aly Fish for an elementary finish.

Another failed clearance stung the Lady Rams less than two minutes into the second half that resulted in Kailyn Woodard setting up Naja for South Glens Falls’ second goal. The Lady Bulldogs tacked on a third just five minutes later when eighth-grader Brooke DelSignore poked the ball into the net during a scrum following a corner kick.

Aponte made 18 saves to keep the game relatively close, but Amsterdam had precious few opportunities to let forwards Lucia Liverio, Haley Madej, Antonia May and Jael Irizarry create any attacking sparks.

“We’re not the greatest at 50-50 balls,” Byerwalters said. “In the second half, we missed 25 of them, which I kept track of on purpose because it’s a weakness as well — and a lot of times, 50-50 balls are a make-or-break situation.”

Despite the loss, Byerwalters is confident that this year’s Lady Rams team is in a much better spot early in the season than last year’s 2-13-1 squad.

“Last year, we struggled greatly. The team dynamic was a really big issue last year, trusting each other was a really big issue,” she said. “I don’t think we have as much of an issue with that this year. I coach a lot of sports, and this is probably the team that’s the most there for each other. That’s a positive in itself.”

Amsterdam will return to action Friday with a 10 a.m. road game against Broadalbin-Perth.