Rye Neck’s field hockey team is faced with a difficult question: how do you lose your two most outstanding players to graduation and still move forward?
By Mitch Silver
Rye Neck’s field hockey team is faced with a difficult question: how do you lose your two most outstanding players to graduation and still move forward? Last year, Nicole Miller and Brianna Cefaloni did yeoman work everywhere on the field for Coach Beth Gulotta’s squad. Now, instead of looking for players to complement her all-league forward and high-scoring central midfielder, Coach Gulotta has to replace them.
“That’s what pre-season is for, and early-season games. We’ll mix and match and see who works best where. We always do best when we play as a single cohesive unit,” the coach went on. “We’re looking to instill confidence in each player and in her teammates.”
Returning forward Rosella Salanitro echoed those thoughts. “Maybe we relied on Brianna and Nicole too much last year. They were so good we knew we could count on them to pull us out of a hole.”
The good news is Rye Neck lost only their two stars from the team that made it to last year’s Class C semifinals. The bad news? Scoring is way down. The Panthers’ 2-2 tie at home with Edgemont last Friday was only the second time they’ve scored but twice in the early going.
On the bright side, the Black Cats recovered from an Edgemont penalty stroke — given when a defender covers up the ball in the crease — to knot the game with only five minutes left.
Edgemont is good, but it will require something more to get past the Bronxvilles and Pawlings of this world. “Conditioning, for one thing,” the coach said after the game. “We’re going to be running a lot in the next few days.”
The team opened the season in the first week of September with a tough 1-0 loss to currently undefeated North Salem. “It was a good opener for us; we always have good competitive games against them,” Coach Gulotta said afterwards. “Given the heat, we did a great job and created a lot of opportunities. We drew a number of corners, but were just not able to finish and put the ball in the cage.”
The Panthers tied Pearl River 2-2 September 8 before dropping a 1-0 heartbreaker to a strong Pleasantville squad a week later. On Monday, Rye Neck met local rival Harrison and came away with a stinging 6-1 defeat. The larger school’s Tasha Garayo was too much to handle, scoring two goals and an assist.
The Black Cats host Hastings Saturday, at 10:30 before traveling to Irvington for another league meeting September 30.