Midfielder Alejandra Saavedra shoots a pass to classmate Ellie Hedges.
Rye High Field Hockey
Season Ends in 2-0 Loss to John Jay
By Mitch Silver
A restructured, revamped Rye High field hockey team, led by first-year Head Coach Kelly Vegliante, took the field at Nugent Stadium October 28 as the fourth seeds in the Class B playoffs. Their opponent? Resurgent John Jay-Cross River, the much-improved fifth seed who would use their 3-1 loss to the Garnets back in September as motivation.
What was at stake? A semifinal matchup with top-seeded Lakeland and their Hall of Fame coach Sharon Sarsen. The Hornets have won every state championship since 2010 except for last year, when they lost the final to Garden City, 1-0. Which means, on top of everything else, they’re out for revenge. Oh, and this year’s Lakeland team boasts the state’s leading scorer in senior Jenna McCrudden.
So, both teams under the lights Monday night knew their season was coming to a close; it was just a matter of when. ‘When’ arrived for the valiant Garnet squad at 8:30 p.m. Though buoyed by the outstanding play of sophomore Catia Lai in goal, Rye yielded a pair of late-game scores to the Indians’ Ella Blum. Her second goal, off a penalty stroke with eight minutes remaining, sealed the deal.
Afterwards, Jay Head Coach Debbi Walsh referred to her team’s early-season loss to Rye. “My girls wanted this win so bad. Having not played well against Rye during the season, they were ready for a rematch. Our passes were not clean today but our intensity made up for it.”
Actually, there was plenty of intensity on both sides. Just two minutes in, Lai made the first of her six saves when she stoned an open shooter by leaping from one side of the cage to the other, smothering the shot.
At the other end, the Garnets had three early chances on corners, but couldn’t convert, so the game went to halftime scoreless. Rye Coach Vegliante said, “Even though they hadn’t scored, we could see how much faster they were as a team. We gave it everything we had out there.”
The coach, who played midfield at Villanova and has gone on to mentor all manner of club teams in Fairfield County, went on to say, “This is a transition moment for Rye. There was a history of feeding one or two star players, and then getting out of their way. We’ve instituted a team-first approach, and the players really took to it.”
So, where does she go from here? “Looking ahead…and I look ahead every day…we’re going to build a real youth program in Rye. Eighth grade is way too late to start playing field hockey; it’s much too nuanced a game.”
For now, the girls will put their sticks away and join their coach in looking ahead to next year.