Young Garnets rapidly rounding into form

Rye’s field hockey team began the season like a squad that graduated five starters from 2008’s roster. In the opener at Lakeland September 10, the Garnets quickly fell into a 3-0 hole by giving up as many goals as they had in their previous 19 games combined.

Amy VanWagenen

Annie VanWagenen (photo by Nick Camia)

It didn’t take them long to bound out of the ditch. Rye rallied to tie the game – the final score was 3-3 – and have outscored opponents 8-1 since giving up the three-spot to Lakeland. The team is now 2-1-1, and most recently defeated Pleasantville and Briarcliff by respective scores of 2-0 and 3-0.

“Falling behind three goals to any team is bad, but against Lakeland it’s even worse,” said second-year head coach Emily Fitzgerald. “To rally as we did showed how much heart and desire – not to mention maturity – this team has.”

Fitzgerald heaped praise upon her captains, seniors Olivia Nabhan and Torie Stearns, for the comeback. The coach said the duo, key ingredients in Rye’s run to the 2007 State championship, kept everyone composed, positive, and believing they were still in it.

Stearns stoked the Garnets’ fire with a late first-half goal to make it 3-1. Freshman Emma Brinkman cut the lead to one in the second half, and then Stearns tied it up.

“We’re so proud of what we did at Lakeland,” said Nabhan. “We came into it mentally strong and very prepared, but I have to admit that when we went down I was very frustrated and upset. But Torie and I explained to the team that it was okay, and that it wasn’t over. Getting a goal at the end of the half was big.”

Rye couldn’t carry over the momentum of the comeback into their next game at home against Suffern. They lost 1-0, but bounced back on the road at Pleasantville September 14. The Garnets controlled possession throughout, and goals by junior Mallory Little and Stearns were enough for the win. While Nabhan and Stearns spearheaded the effort, Rye’s junior and sophomore players, like Laurel Kennedy, G.G. Fitzgerald, Michelle Mulhearn, Rachel Chin, and Annie VanWagenen, all contributed. Kennedy was a pest, getting her stick on balls all over the field, and Mulhearn provided stout defense, surprising for a player who only recently switched over from offense. Nabhan called her the team’s most improved player along with junior goalkeeper Kaitlin Campbell, who worked tirelessly on her game over the summer.

“Our younger players have been amazing,” said Nabhan. “We’re so excited to see how they will grow throughout the season, and I’m always looking forward to getting back on the field with them. I take pride in teaching the girls what I’ve learned, and it’s fun to see who makes that next big play for us.”

At home against Briarcliff September 15, the youngsters were back at it. Brinkman scored two goals and VanWagenen scored one in the first half as Rye cruised to a 3-0 win. The Garnets suffocated Briarcliff’s offense, executing Fitzgerald’s game plan to perfection.

“One of our goals is playing possession hockey,” said the coach. “We also want to play our game for 60 minutes with no letdowns or inconsistency, and take advantage of scoring opportunities. We have a lot of offensive weapons, so we need to finish.”

Rye’s next game is September 21, at John Jay-Cross River.

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