On paper, it’s a promising setup. Then again, high school field hockey games are played on fields, not paper.
Riverhead has seven seniors, but that is misleading. Two of them have not played at the varsity level before. The team has an eighth grader and four freshmen on the roster. Even more telling, however, are the number of returning players who saw substantial playing time last season: five. They are Kim Ligon, who is moving from defense to midfield, midfielder Katelyn Zaneski, goalie Grace Dow, forward Emily Masse and defender Emily Pearce.
“And that’s it,” said coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards.
That is the core of what remains from a 9-5 team that reached the playoffs for the third straight year, beating Sachem North before losing to Sachem East in the second round.
Walsh-Edwards said it is the first time in her 15 years as the team’s coach that she has had so few players with a “quality amount of experience out there.”
The Blue Waves are seeded sixth in Suffolk County Division II where they will tangle with some tough teams like Half Hollow Hills East, West Islip, Newfield and Huntington.
“I think we definitely have our work cut out for us,” said Walsh-Edwards.
Players like Zaneski and Ligon help.
Zaneski, a senior, was all-conference last year. “Katelyn is very serious about field hockey,” Walsh-Edwards said. “She’s looking to play at the next level.”
Ligon, a sophomore, was all-division and received the team’s most improved player award as a sweeper. She will start the season as a defensive midfielder.
“Kim last year made such an improvement as a player,” said Walsh-Edwards.
Also offering varsity experience are forwards Carley Hayon, Milce Garcia and Shannon Schmidt, and defender Janelle Carey.
The new additions are forwards Courtney Troyan, Rachel Phillips and Katie Goodale, midfielders Kayla Kielbasa and Angelina Graziano, and defenders Christy Falisi, Sarah Rempe and Kristen Brunner.
“I see it overall as a young team in terms of varsity experience, but they’re a team,” Walsh-Edwards said. She added, “The people coming off the bench, I’m not going to lose anything making substitutions.”
Shoreham-Wading River’s new coach, Allie Franklin, said she wasn’t the most talented player when she played high school field hockey in Connecticut, but she put in extra hours and made herself into the type of player she wanted to be. That hard work helped Franklin win a place on the Keene State College (N.H.) team, which won three conference titles and went to the NCAA Division III Tournament in three of her four years there.
Not surprisingly, work ethic is important to Franklin, who has seen firsthand what it can do.
Franklin sounds thrilled over taking over for J. M. Jackson and taking on her first varsity coaching job.
“I’m extremely excited,” she said. “It’s something that I wanted for a very long time. It’s definitely what I was meant to do.”
The Wildcats lost a bunch of players from their playoff team of a year ago. They will rely on their co-captains, senior forward Nina Mostaccio and senior defender Gabby Campo, as well as junior midfielders Melissa Manzello and Taylor Flanagan and senior defender Shelby Curdin.
Also back from last year’s team are: defenders Campbell Brand and Emma Cairo, forwards Amanda Campo (Gabby’s sister), Allison Mahan, Bri Fischetti, Katie Bunn and Morgan Van-Wickler, and goalie Meg Daly.
The newcomers are: forward/midfielder Michele Steimel, defender Hailey Ficken, midfielder/forward Jackie Leiver, forward Meg Julian, forward Nicole Flynn, forward Michele Corona and midfielder/forward Carina Domingues.
Franklin said the Wildcats are working on connecting passes and getting younger players in the mix.
“You need 11 girls to put the ball in the net, not just one,” she said. “I think the key to be successful for us is capitalizing when we’re in the circle. … We need to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Franklin would like to see the team have a winning record and make it past the first round of the playoffs.
It all starts Thursday when the Wildcats open their season in Southampton.
Franklin, who said she is an active coach on the sideline (“I do a lot of jumping”), acknowledged she will be nervous. More than that, though, she indicated she will also happy. She said, “Having a field hockey stick in my hand, being on the field in September is definitely what makes me happy.”
Photo Caption: Riverhead sophomore Kim Ligon, right, during a scrimmage Saturday at Comsewogue. Ligon, an all-division player, has been moved from sweeper to defensive midfielder. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)