In high school field hockey, seniors, experienced seniors, are like gold. That explains why Riverhead may feel as if it’s rich in talent these days.
Riverhead (9-7 last year) has lost only three players and two starters from last year’s team, which won its first ever home playoff game (3-0 over West Islip) before falling to Eastport-South Manor, 4-0, in last year’s Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals. That showing — and a wealth of experience from four-year varsity players like seniors Kayla Kielbasa, Angie Graziano, Christy Falisi and Sarah Rempe — has brought with it expectations.
“High expectations,” said coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards, who has nine seniors. “I’m hoping that they have a great season. I think this senior group, especially, deserves it.”
But with high praise comes high demands. Riverhead is seeded fifth in Division I. With that comes a difficult schedule.
“It’s going to be a challenging schedule in a very good division with good teams, good coaches,” said Walsh-Edwards.
Riverhead has some good players itself, though, as it aims to reach the playoffs for a seventh straight year. Kielbasa, an All-County forward, recorded 12 goals and six assists in 2017. Sophomore midfielder Rease Coleman is an All-County player, too. Junior forward Katie Goodale (nine goals, three assists) made All-County honorable mention. All-Division goalie Victoria Stapon is entering her senior season. Graziano (10 goals, two assists) is an All-League forward. Rempe made the All-County Tournament Team as a defender.
More senior know-how is provided by forward Sarah Gustafson, midfielder Laryssa Olsen, defender Regan Montefusco and defender Taylor McKnight.
Among the underclassmen are junior forwards Kristy Troyan and Kayla Monticello, junior midfielder/defender Lauren King and Peyton Choma, a seventh-grade defender.
The team’s biggest questions are who will fill the starting positions left by the graduations of defender Kim Ligon and midfielder Shannon Schmidt?
“Those are two spots that are pretty big to fill,” said Walsh-Edwards.
How good can this team be?
“I’m hoping very good,” Walsh-Edwards said. “I have high expectations, but I also know we’re in a good division. It’s hard … There’s a lot of things that can happen.”
Shoreham-Wading River (8-8) saw improvement last year, just not enough to qualify for the playoffs.
What about this year? Are the Wildcats a playoff team in 2018?
“Oh, a hundred percent,” the team’s second-year coach, Jenna Stevenson, said. “I definitely feel confident with where we’re at and I definitely think we could make it to [the] playoffs.”
Shoreham has an experienced troika to lead the way in Summer Steimel, Michele Corona and Rachel Biemer. Steimel, an All-County center midfielder, put up 12 goals and two assists last season. Corona, an All-County honorable mention senior right midfielder, was tied for 11th in the county with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists), according to Newsday. Biemer is a senior forward who should help fuel the offense.
Shoreham, seeded fifth in Division II (the top six teams will reach the playoffs), has five other returning starters: junior forward Abby Korzekwinski, sophomore defender Chiara Hodun, senior forward Isabella Meli, junior goalie Ashley Luppens and junior forward Maddie Rutkowsky.
Four other seniors return: midfielder Erin Reilly, forward Caitlyn Loguercio, forward Jamie Zahn and defender Shannon Washburn. Additional depth is provided by goalie Julianna Asaro, forward/midfielders Samantha Sicoli and Brooke Meltcher, and defenders Aiza Naim, Gabriella Meli (Isabella’s sister) and Destiny Keshner.
Stevenson said, “I think we have a really positive attitude, which I think can go a long way.”
Photo caption: Riverhead sophomore midfielder Rease Coleman, maneuvering in a game against Newfield last year, is an All-County player. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)