By Melanie Cane and Mitch Silver
The Garnets have made it all the way to the sectional final only to lose to Lakeland five years in a row. But this is a new year and a new beginning with four returning seniors, seven returning juniors, and one returning sophomore.
Senior Captain Sarah Breckenridge and junior Captain Mallory Lynch felt great energy on the field at the first practice and they, along with Coach Emily Murphy, are “looking forward to another great year with an amazing group of field hockey players.”
Last year’s 16-2 record will be hard to beat, but they will try, starting with their first game against Nyack at home September 3.
The team is in an almost entirely new conference, so Coach Tony Campbell says it is hard to use last year as a gauge for this season. Still, the Garnets were runners-up in the conference last year and hope to win it this year.
With 50 girls trying out for 32 to 34 spots on Varsity and Junior Varsity, including many freshmen as well as new girls, Coach Campbell doesn’t yet know the composition of his team. But he’s chosen his captains: fourth-year players Chloe Jennings and Andrea Holquin, both seniors.
Their first match is September 3 at home against Tappan Zee.
In his 38 years of coaching, 32 of them at Rye, Dino Garr has seen it all. Powerhouse running games, stalwart defenses, games won and lost at the one-yard line. Make that the one-inch line. But in all that time, he’s never had a thrower and a catcher at the same time like Andrew Livingston and Tim DeGraw, both school record holders — one for passes and the other for catches.
With the two of them igniting a potentially explosive aerial game, Rye just might be able to get back to the Section One title game. And if Somers, last year’s winner in a bruising 20-6 final, is on the other side of the ball, look out.
A year ago, four-year starter Livingston threw for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, putting him at the top of a superlative list of Garnet QBs down the years. Yale-bound DeGraw, a 5’9” senior who’s fresh off a State title run with the Garnet and Black baseball team, returns to try to top his own Section record of 1,051 receiving yards on 41 catches and nine TDs.
Taking some of the pressure off his fellow receiver will be basketball star Drew Abate at tight end. Co-Captain Chase Pratt, a junior, and another of the two-sport heroes who’s traded in one set of cleats for another, will go at running back and linebacker.
The coach knows everything starts with the line. “While we lost some great team players, real character guys, our line should be one of our real strengths this year.”
Senior Co-Captains Jimmy Timmings and Roger Paganelli will anchor things with the help of Marco Dellicolli and Patrick Hull.
Coach Garr also touched on concussions, a hot topic among players and their parents. “We teach ‘eyes to the sky’ tackling, and we’re going to be even more vigilant about it this season.”
Of course, no Rye season is complete without winning The Game. The Harrison tilt comes up early this year, September 13, hard on the heels of the season opener September 5 at Lakeland. Will his charges be tempted to look past the Indians? Garr gave the faintest of smiles. “That’s what we coaches are for.”
To be on the Rye High varsity team, one must be dedicated, committed, and hard working. Coach Rich Savage will cull the less enthusiastic hopefuls immediately, with double practices/tryouts beginning at 6:30 in the morning. Senior Captains Charlotte Romano, Christina Benincasa, Mary Hyland, and Charlotte Tucci exemplify these traits, as do the other seven returning players. Of these seven, goalie Maddy Eck and Hannah Krapes are key players. With nine spots to fill and nearly 40 girls trying out, only the really tough and those who need little sleep will remain standing.
For the past two seasons, the team has lost in the sectional semifinal. “Obviously, we would like to make it to the finals and win,” said Coach Savage.
The Garnets travel to Burlington, Vermont August 28-30 to play against the best competition in the state in preparation for their first game, which is at home September 3 against Pelham.
A year ago, the Garnets’ squad stumbled out of the gate, made a run at a .500 record, and eventually fell short. Now for the good news: a lot of the players who had their heads handed to them 12 months ago are back. And they’re bigger, stronger, and wiser in the ways of what the world calls “football.”
Coach Jared Small is certainly optimistic. “We’ve just come from playing in the Lakeland Summer League — when one of the up-county teams dropped out at the last minute — and we started off 4-0. Every game was decided by a single goal against the likes of Mahopac, Yorktown, and Valhalla.”
Senior Jackson Kligerman returns to anchor the defense and junior Will Colwell will run things from center midfield. A couple of left-footed players in Jon DiPalma and Leo Gomes, both juniors, will flank Colwell much of the time, while a freshman, Carl Friedrich, will take over at left fullback. Senior John Emanuel and junior Owen Moore will vie to keep the ball out of the Garnet net.
The question is: Can this team put the ball in the opponent’s net? Senior Will Hammer will be trying to do just that from his striker position. Who will join him on the scoresheet? Possibly one or more of Assistant Coach Sal Curella’s charges from last year’s JV squad.
“We’re not as deep as some of the teams we’ll face,” Small conceded. “So we’ll have to play a possession game and work our heads off.” Then he smiled. “That’s how I like to play, anyway.”
The Garnets open at home against non-league opponent Roosevelt, a team they haven’t met in recent years, September 2. Then they’ll take on league rival Eastchester in the first home night game of the year, September 5.
Coach Melanie Flowers, as well as returning seniors Sammy Viger and Jaime DiDonato, are “really excited” about the upcoming season. With ten returning players and two to four spots to fill, the coach is looking forward to the team working as a cohesive unit and consistently improving throughout the season. To that end, Coach Flowers implemented a weight-training program during the off-season, which will continue during the season. “It is a great bonding experience and the girls enjoyed seeing their bodies get stronger.”
The girls to watch, according to the coach, are Viger and sophomores Jaime Donelly and Katherine Coleman.
The team has lost in the first round of playoffs for the past several years, so their goal is to make it past the first round. They have at least two scrimmages at the end of August before their first matchup September 2 at home against Nyack.