BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Last year’s loss in the Section II Class A title game to Saratoga Springs does not sit well with the Shenendehowa field hockey team.
The Plainsmen, though, won’t have to wait long in 2015 for their first shot at their archrival — and that does sit well with Shenendehowa, which takes on Saratoga Springs in an early-season Sept. 4 matchup.
“We’re back for vengeance this year,” said Shenendehowa senior Emily Fraser. “Saratoga is the sectional champ and they have to defend it. That’s hard to do.”
The Plainsmen know that firsthand from recent memory. In 2013, head coach Jeanne Frevola’s squad capped a dream campaign with a state championship; last year, despite entering the postseason as the No. 1 seed, Shenendehowa could not defend its area title.
This year, the Plainsmen are looking to get back to the top of Section II with a veteran group that returns a solid core from a year ago in players such as Kelly Barkevich, Taryn Marra, and Carli Pelletier — plus more athletes who saw significant time a year ago.
“We have a lot of kids who weren’t stars last year, but they played a lot,” Frevola said.
Then, of course, there’s Emily Fraser, the team’s top star. In May, Fraser was named to the national under-19 indoor field hockey team. Her presence is the centerpiece around which Frevola expects to put together a high-scoring attack to help compensate for the loss for last year’s goalie Melissa Nealon, who is now at the University at Albany,
“If we can score at will, we’ll be fine,” Frevola said.
Barkevich, a senior defender, said the team has had strong chemistry from the start of its preseason. Knowing a big game awaits the squad so early in the season has helped that cause.
“We definitely have ramped it up very early,” Barkevich said. “That’s a very big game for us, so we need to keep up the same intensity and practice hard every day.”
“We have a really solid group of girls. We have flexible people that can play whatever positions they’re told,” Marra said. “I think the puzzle pieces are connecting for us.”
At times, too, the Plainsmen have been able to keep their preseason light in mood. The squad helps to run a youth program for the sport, which has a few dozen youngsters in grades third through sixth.
“We help get them ready for modified and for when they get to [varsity],” Marra said. “They’re going to be very strong players.”
The game against Saratoga Springs is not the Plainsmen’s only tough one early, as Shenendehowa will also take on perennial Class B power Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in a Sept. 8 matchup.
That start to the season has the Plainsmen field hockey team champing at the bit.
“We know we have to start out strong,” Fraser said.
The Shenendehowa field hockey team’s 2015 schedule:
- Sept. 2, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Bethlehem
- Sept. 4, 4:15 p.m.: at Saratoga Springs
- Sept. 8, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
- Sept. 9, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Shaker
- Sept. 11, 4:15 p.m.: at Guilderland
- Sept. 16, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Niskayuna
- Sept. 21, 4:15 p.m.: at Columbia
- Sept. 22, 6 p.m.: at Kingston
- Sept. 25, 4:15 p.m.: at Bethlehem
- Sept. 30, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Saratoga Springs
- Oct. 2, 4:15 p.m.: at Shaker
- Oct. 7, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Guilderland
- Oct. 9, 4:15 p.m.: at Niskayuna
- Oct. 14, 6:30 p.m.: at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
- Oct. 16, 4:15 p.m.: hosts Columbia