Garnets Lose to Lakeland in Battle of the Unbeatens

In an epic rematch of the first- and second-seeded teams in the Class B Section field hockey championship at Manhattanville College, the Garnets lost another heartbreaker, 1-0, to nemesis, and defending State champion, Lakeland. For the second straight year, the Hornets took the measure of Rye, scoring in the gloaming of the second half on a smash by standout Emma Bozek.

Garnets defend a short corner in the first half

While Rye stars Emma Brinkman and Annie VanWagenen were slowed by ankle injuries, the Garnets dominated the first half of play and even managed to put the ball in the back of the net with less than 90 seconds to play. The goal was disallowed, however, because a Lakeland player deflected the shot from outside the circle.

“When the ball hit the backboard everyone on the field jumped for joy,” said VanWagenen, a junior. “It seemed to be a miracle. Unfortunately, it was called back. Luckily for us, this only gave us more drive. We continued to take shots on goal and played offensively until the game ended.”

Although the Garnets, who finished the season with an 18-1 record, came up short in this veritable clash of the titans, they were proud of their performance on the big stage.

Katie Killip with the ball on her stick in front of Lakeland’s goal

“I told the girls that I couldn’t have asked for anything more than what they gave me,” said head coach Emily Fitzgerald. “Who knows what would have happened if the game had gone into overtime, but afterwards we just reflected as a team on how successful we were and how we proved a lot of people wrong. Many have doubted this team and program for the past couple of years, but the girls work hard and respond.”

Since taking over for Kevin Kelly three years ago, Fitzgerald has led the prestigious field hockey program to a 50-5-2 record and consecutive appearances in the Section title game. If not for Lakeland standing in their way, there is no telling how far the Garnets could go. At press time, the still-unbeaten Hornets have advanced to the State semifinals.

Laurel Kennedy is first to the ball

“By developing children’s skills at a young age, coach Fitz has figured out how to build a strong program,” said VanWagenen. “She’s a great coach and her dedication and desire for us to be the best definitely shows.”

Rye outscored opponents 72-7 this season, and will bring back much of that firepower in 2011 with 12 returning players. Brinkman, VanWagenen, Tori Virtue, Katie Killip, and GG FitzGerald are just a handful of the players that have the head coach already looking forward to next year.

While the Garnets return much talent, they’ll graduate the foundation of their defense in June. Rachel Chin, Michelle Mulhearn, and Laurel Kennedy created a near-impenetrable line on defense, and goalkeeper Kaitlin Campbell had their backs if an opponent was fortunate enough to break through.

“We had many seniors who added so much to the program this year,” said VanWagenen. “The three captains (Chin, Mulhearn, and Campbell) were always so supportive of everyone on the team and really made this season enjoyable.”

Although Rye left the Section final empty-handed, the team did accumulate a hefty sum of individual accolades. Chin, Brinkman, and VanWagenen earned All-State, All-Section, and All-League nods, while Laurel Kennedy was named All-Section and All-League. Tori Virtue was tabbed All-Section Honorable Mention, and was also selected All-League with FitzGerald, Mulhearn, and Campbell.

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