Panthers Edge Gryphons in Early Season Thriller

Rye Neck field hockey’s 1-0 victory over Holy Child had all the enthusiasm and intensity of a championship game. The only difference was that the spirited contest was played not in chilly November at a neutral location, but September 20 as the Panthers’ home opener.

Sophomore Athena Nathan banged home a rebound in front of Holy Child’s net 3:15 into the second half for the game’s only score. Jenna Cohen had the assist. If not for a heroic effort from Rye Neck goalie Yasmina Gourchane, however, the outcome could have been different. The junior fended off a barrage of shots in the contest’s final minutes, including a blast from Leslie Infanger that forced Gourchane to fully extend her left leg into the air for the kick save. She finished with six stops, all made in the exhilarating second half.

Yasmina Gourchane

“We worked on Yasmina’s ability to be aggressive in goal,” said Rye Neck head coach Nicole Bolnik. “ At the end of the game she implemented everything we taught and kept her head in the game while Holy Child pounded the circle. She did everything she needed to do for us to win.”

Bolnik also congratulated seniors Lilli Zinaman and Claire Behar, a captain, for what she said was “outstanding play” from their midfield positions. The Panthers have no players on their bench – zero  – so dedication up and down the roster is paramount. Hannah Pedersen was another player who made an impact. The junior pestered the Gryphons all day, created scoring opportunities and snuffed out chances for Holy Child.

“I’m proud of the entire team for their energy, effort, and hustle,” said Bolnik, who returned her entire 2009 roster this season. “We’re trying to build a feeling of success, and everyone has to work together. I think this win secured the girls’ belief that they can actually execute everything we work on in practice.”

Holy Child head coach Barbara Lorys thought her Gryphons could have played better, and admitted they needed about 20 minutes to adjust to Rye Neck’s grass field.

Aly Luiso and Mary Clare Manfred

“No excuses, though,” said ex-Panther coach Lorys. “Rye Neck came out to win and pushed the entire game. I was impressed with their intensity – something we certainly lacked in the first half. We stepped up our game in the second half, but it was not enough to get the win.”

Bridget Cooney made four saves in goal for the Gryphons, and senior captain Julie Duignan chipped in with a solid performance. Holy Child’s offense was relentless in the second half, but they could not crack the code in Lorys’ return to Rye Neck.

“Going back to Rye Neck is always something I look forward to,” said the coach. “I have wonderful memories of my years as a player followed by my 21 years of coaching. We – our coaching staff of Cheryl O’Shea, Kelly Galvao, and myself – played for Gail Stevenson, who was known at that time as the winningest coach in the country. In my years of playing under her, we never lost a game until the last one of my senior year.  It was devastating. Since then, I hate to say it, but I welcome an early loss. You get it out of the way and move on … no pressure.”

Lorys went on to lead Rye Neck to several League and Section titles, and took teams to the State championship game in 1996 and 1998, winning the second time. Her Gryphons are 1-2 this season. The Panthers’ win was their first of the season, but the up-and-comers tied Pleasantville the next day and are currently 1-2-1.

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