Rye Country Day’s field hockey team never veered from the course they set prior to the NYSAIS State championship game November 8 at Manahattanville. Despite mounting frustration in a contest with undefeated and top-seeded Riverdale that remained scoreless for more than 57 minutes of play, the Wildcats refused to make adjustments.
Persistence paid off when senior captain Isabel Beshar slapped a shot in on a Jess Hanway assist to give second-seeded Rye Country Day all the goals they’d need with 2:47 left on the clock. The defense continued its stalwart play in the waning minutes, and the Wildcats (10-4) won their second State title in three years.
“I am overjoyed,” said Beshar. “This has been my dream since freshman year – to lead the team to a championship as a senior. I could not be happier or more proud of the team. I’m sad to see the season end, but it could not have ended in a better way. This win was for our coaches, Georgette Summers and Brooke Fleming, who have taught us so much – not just about field hockey but also about being confident and united team players.”
Beshar admitted that as the game progressed, Rye Country Day became more and more nervous about their ability to finish. In the back of their minds was the disappointing loss to Holy Child in 2008’s NYSAIS final, the result of a stroke-off after the tilt remained tied through regulation and overtime. The Wildcats were able to remain confident in the face of fraying nerves however, especially in timeouts when, Beshar said, teams have a tendency to become frantic. This cool, calm, and collected nature – gained from past experience – helped them prevent “silly” mistakes that might have allowed Riverdale to steal the championship.
“It was very frustrating to dominate and have so many scoring opportunities and not put the ball in the goal,” said head coach Georgette Summers. “We just kept telling the girls on the forward line to stay in position and let the midfield put the ball on goal. We knew at some point we’d get a deflection or flick past the goalie.”
Lack of scoring aside, Rye Country Day’s offense was relentless all game in forcing Riverdale’s goalkeeper to make 10 saves. The Wildcats’ defense was even better. RCDS goalkeeper Kate Moelis, a junior, did not have to make a single save. Senior Nealy Nimocks played center midfield and anchored Rye Country Day with unwavering effort and an uncanny ability to distribute the ball and keep the momentum going forward.
Beshar noted that much of her team’s training this season was geared towards effective marking, proper positioning, and stable footwork – skills she said proved invaluable in the 1-0 win against Riverdale.
Juniors Amanda Shulman, Christine Cunningham, and Lauren Schumaker were all key cogs in the run, and will undoubtedly front another title contender in 2010, but Beshar and fellow senior captain Hannah Loewentheil were the engine that made RCDS go.
“Hannah and Isabel came out on the first day of preseason determined to win the championship,” said Summers. “The set the tone in every practice, warm-up, and game. It was a serious, confident, ‘we can do this together’ message. Their leadership on and off the field demonstrated their desire to put our team in the best position to win it all.”
Although the lasting impression for anyone who watched the State title battle will undoubtedly be Beshar’s joyous post-goal leap in the air, which she called “the most exciting moment of my life”, the image of any one individual doesn’t sum up the all-for-one and one-for-all Wildcats.
“This win is not about my goal or about the individual achievements of our team,” said Beshar. “This team is a family. Every practice, every long run, and every game was completed as a team effort. I think this was one of our major advantages. We were patient with each other and we never got down, and that composure helped us win. To be honest, I think every single member of the team should be treated as a hero, since every single member contributed to the win in some way.”