If their 19-12 pasting of Pleasantville in the regular season finale is any indication, the Rye girls’ lacrosse team appears to have saved their best for last.
Senior co-captain Molly O’Brien scored an astounding 10 goals in the May 13 victory, bringing her career total to 198. It’s all but certain that she’ll cross the 200-goal threshold in the Class C Section playoffs, which began post press time as the 11th-seeded Garnets clashed with No. 22 North Salem in an outbracket game. Head coach Lisa Zweigenhaft called O’Brien unstoppable, and said, “she’s such a fun player to watch because when she’s going to the goal, you know you are going to like the result.”
“Ten goals is the most I’ve ever scored in a game, but it was news to me,” said O’Brien. “I had lost count after three – I was just worried about not letting Pleasantville catch up.”
O’Brien’s partner in crime, Emma Tucci, poured six goals in herself and was proud of her team’s performance in her final regular season game at Nugent Stadium. She called the contest 50 minutes of competitive, fun and fast lacrosse. It was the perfect antidote after two tough losses earlier in the week.
“Because of all of the obstacles our team has faced this season, the win was exactly what we needed to surge our enthusiasm and excitement for the postseason,” said the senior co-captain. “All week our coaches had stressed how important it is to play for a full fifty minutes and never let down. The win was definitely very special for our team because it showed us how crucial it is to always work hard and have faith in your ability and your team’s ability to win.”
The Garnets entered the Section playoffs with a 6-7-1 record, but were always able to keep their heads up despite hitting frustrating points during the season. Zweigenhaft admires the character of her team, and says the girls are fighters and a top team even though their record does not say so. Rye has the playoff experience to succeed in the Sectionals – they nearly won the championship last year – and could be peaking at the right time.
Tucci called Rye the darkhorse underdogs of Section 1, and O’Brien noted that the Garnets could fly under the radar and surprise some higher-ranked teams.
“That is exactly what I am hoping for,” she said. “Judging by the Pleasantville performance and the energy I felt from each player, I know full well each of us wants to win now, and we’re fully capable of doing just that. No one thinks we’re a threat because we lost so many players, coach O’Shea, and multiple games, but we held our own through a very rough patch at the beginning of the season. Now more then ever the team knows it’s time to step up.”
If the Garnets are to succeed in the Section playoffs, one major obstacle they’ll have to overcome is youth. Tucci and O’Brien are two of only three seniors on the roster, and an early season head injury relegated Lauren McRedmond – the third senior – to the sidelines. O’Brien said McRedmond would have been a huge asset to the team’s defense, but nonetheless was the team’s biggest unsung hero because she has held the Garnets together from the sidelines.
Rye does have a talented group of young players, however, including sophomore goaltender Madeline Kinker, who made 10 saves against Pleasantville.
“She has stepped up far beyond what anyone could have asked her to,” said O’Brien. “Not only in the cage, but also as a huge motivator for the whole team. Every time we lost a game, which was unfortunately more often than not, she was able to pick my head up and make me realize that it wasn’t the end of the world. Kink always knows the right thing to say and the right time to say it.”
The play of juniors Maddy Chabot and Natalie Moore, and sophomore Emma Brinkman also bolsters the Garnets. Brinkman has an amazing field sense and contributes from all over, while the juniors have been two of Rye’s most consistent players all year. Moore is heavily relied upon defensively to stop the opposition’s top threats, and Chabot is a key player in transition.
If Rye defeated North Salem in the outbracket game, as well as No. 6 Nanuet in the first round May 20, their next game would likely be at third-seeded Bronxville in the quarterfinals. Regardless of who they face, the Garnets believe they can overcome any challenge.
“Assistant coach Judy Padgett always says, ‘attitude equals altitude’, noted Tucci. “We can’t move forward without having a positive attitude or the belief and confidence that we are a great team with tremendous potential.”