The playing surface has perhaps the biggest impact in field hockey than any other sport. Whether that playing surface is grass or field turf makes a tremendous difference in how the game is played.
On field turf, passes are sure and it’s a much faster brand of field hockey.
No wonder the Shoreham-Wading River High School players are excited about their new Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field.
“It makes for more of a good game to watch,” too, Shoreham’s second-year coach, Allie Franklin, said. She added, “The sport of field hockey is meant to be played on field turf.”
Led by their senior co-captains, Melissa Manzello and Taylor Flanagan, the Wildcats (9-6 last year) are trying to withstand the loss of 12 graduated players and reach the playoffs, something they came so close to doing last year. Had Shoreham won its final game against rival Miller Place, that would have done the trick. Instead, the Wildcats fell agonizingly short.
Shoreham is seeded sixth in Suffolk County Division III. Because of the scheduling formula, that seed is one of the worst to have, according to Franklin. “We have to beat the people that we should beat and beat the people that we shouldn’t beat to make the playoffs,” she said.
The top eight teams in the division will qualify for the postseason.
Shoreham will try to be one of those teams with the help of Manzello, an All-State center midfielder, and Flanagan, an All-County center back.
“They do more than just score goals for our team,” Franklin said. “Without them on the field, our team would look completely different.”
Franklin said Manzello “already operates at the collegiate level. She is a good all-around athlete. She has speed. She has intelligence about the game. She has incredible stick skills.”
Flanagan will organize things in the back line, with the aid of returning junior defenders Cam Brant and Michelle Steimel.
“I couldn’t ask for two better senior captains this year,” Franklin said. “I’m expecting a lot from them, but I know that they can live up to it.”
Also among the team’s eight returning players are senior forward Nicole Flynn, senior midfielder Jackie Leiber, senior forward Meg Julian and sophomore forward Michele Corona. New to the team are freshman midfielder Summer Steimel (Michelle’s younger sister) and junior goalie Gabby Cacciolla, who played goalie for the school’s lacrosse team and is in her first year of field hockey.
Attempts to reach Riverhead coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards were unsuccessful. The Blue Waves reached the playoffs for a second straight year in 2015.
Photo caption:Melissa Manzello returns for Shoreham-Wading River as a captain this year. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)