Sep 09, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Back in the varsity ranks after a 21-year absence, the East Syracuse-Minoa field hockey team needed just two tries to reach the win column.
The breakthrough came on a cold, gloomy Thursday afternoon at ESM Stadium, where a goal late in regulation pushed the Spartans past Cato-Meridian 1-0.
None of the current players were born the last time the school fielded a varsity team in the late 1980s.But after a years-long building process, the Spartans are back at the varsity level and ready to tackle much more established programs within the Onondaga High School League.
To coach the team, ESM turned to Kate Sergi, winner of a state championship at Greene (Section IV) who also played in college at Hofstra University on Long Island. Currently, Sergi has 17 varsity players, just five of them seniors, so a majority of the squad will remain intact through 2011.
For an opening assignment on Tuesday, ESM drew the toughest foe possible — Cazenovia, a four-time defending Section III champion who had won 49 straight league games. On the Lakers’ home field at Burton Street Elementary School, the Spartans took a 9-1 defeat.
Melissa Koch earned the high honor of scoring ESM’s first goal in more than two decades, converting in the second half unassisted. On Cazenovia’s side, Tori Widrick, one of the area’s top players, finished with four goals and one assist.
With that out of the system, the Spartans returned home, where it would deal with Cato-Meridian, a smaller school – but with a program far more established than ESM, so it remained a serious hill to climb.
Despite playing a lot of defense early, the Spartans got the first two penalty corners, but could not convert either of them. ESM’s defense secured the net well, keeping the Blue Devils from getting too close throughout the half.
Just before the break, ESM broke out with four attackers rght up the middle, only to fling a shot wide. Cato missed on a penalty corner, too, so the game remained 0-0 at the half.
ESM played the same way in the second half – tight on defense while keeping three or four players ready for an offensive breakout. That led to good chances and the occasional penalty corner, but no breakthrough.
Gradually, the Spartans’ pressure built, and when that didn’t work, Cato made its own pushes, forcing a penalty corner midway through the half and a large scrum that it could not capitalize on. ESM countered and nearly got on the board a minute later as the tension built.
As regulation time wound down, ESM earned two penalty corners. With 7:26 left, freshman Amy Loder, off a feed from senior Kayla Russell, pounded a hard shot past Blue Devils goalie Cassie Greene.
Cato tried to pull even in the homestretch, but Danielle Hobb made a clutch save and the defenders stayed calm, clearing the ball out with 2:30 left, and the Spartans soon had their first varsity win.
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