BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — The night before the opening practice of the 2016 season, Taryn Marra’s cellphone kept buzzing. The group text message with her Shenendehowa field hockey teammates constantly had at least one person chiming in with a new version of the same overall message.
“We were all like, ‘You guys ready?’” said Marra, a senior on this year’s team.
They were, as the Plainsmen got their preseason underway Aug. 15 on the high school’s turf field. While Shenendehowa lost six players to graduation from last year’s squad, this year’s team includes 13 returners from a 2015 team that finished 18-2 and one win short of playing for a Class A state title.
“I don’t see a lot of issues, really,” Shenendehowa head coach Jeanne Frevola said of this year’s team. “We don’t have a lot of holes. This is probably the most balanced group I’ve had since the 2013 team.”
That squad won a state championship, which is the goal for this year’s team. A talented core of seniors such as Kelly Buckley, Marra, Carli Pelletier, Tegan Robinson and McKenzie Woerner are expected to lead this year’s group.
“We have to take charge and help out our younger kids,” Pelletier said.
Shenendehowa starts its Suburban Council schedule with a Sept. 2 road game against Bethlehem before playing host Sept. 7 to rival Saratoga Springs. The Blue Streaks are likely the Plainsmen’s top challenger this season in league play and in Section II, but having that first matchup with Saratoga Springs during the season’s first week should not be an issue for Shenendehowa.
“We have a lot of returners here and we’ve been playing together a lot,” Pelletier said. “We have good chemistry already.”
That chemistry is what Frevola and the Plainsmen expect will help Shenendehowa make up for the losses of graduates such as Kelly Barkevich and Emily Fraser from last year’s team.
“We miss them, but we don’t feel like that now that we don’t have Kelly [Barkevich] on defense or Emily [Fraser] on offense that we can’t do it,” Marra said. “Obviously, we lost some good players, but we have a lot of returners ready to step up.”
“This is going to be a more balanced team,” Frevola said.
But there also is individual talent. Frevola said three of Shenendehowa’s players have already made college commitments — Buckley to Fairfield University, Marra to the University of Vermont, Woerner to Stonehill College — to continue their field hockey careers next season.
This season, though, is the focus — especially for the Plainsmen’s seniors who want to defend their league and sectional championships, and pursue a state title.
“It’s really exciting,” Pelletier said. “This is our last season, so we all want to go hard.”