At Shen field hockey, the backup GK is a star, too

AMY LUKE/For The Daily GazetteAMY LUKE/For The Daily Gazette

BY JIM SCHILTZ
Gazette Sportswriter

CLIFTON PARK — Jeanne Frevola consideres herself a fortunate field hockey coach.

She’s got the Suburban Council’s premier goalkeeper starting for her this season in senior Sheridan Messier, and in backup Abby Danson, she could have the next.

“She is quick and she has good anticipation,” Frevola said. “She plays angles good and she is strong with her clears. Her biggest weakness is she doesn’t talk.”

The veteran coach is certain that piece of her game will gradually develop as Danson gains confidence and builds trust with her older teammates. She is only a sophomore, one of two playing this season for the defending state Class A champions.

“She made Futures this year, and played in the Junior Olympics,” Frevola said. “She’s already making a name for herself.”

Danson’s whirlwind summer concluded early this month at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Michigan, where she helped team Orange secure a silver medal. Only seven girls from New York competed in the six-team tournament.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Danson said. “I knew there would be a lot of good players. I didn’t know we’d take it so far.”

Danson split time in the six games with another goalie from Texas in a 3-3 showing.

“I think I played pretty well,” Danson said. “It was fun to play against more skilled players. It was a great experience.”

It wasn’t the only one, though. In June Danson represented Region 4 (New York) in USA Field Hockey’s highest-level tournament for players in its Futures Program. The program is a

developmental pipeline for advanced middle and high school-age athletes who have collegiate and national team aspirations.

“I got to play in the National Futures Championship my first year,” Danson said. “There were two New York teams, and they picked me.”

Danson helped lead Shenendehowa’s junior varsity to an unbeaten 2016 season before her first season in the Futures program followed. It included the under-16 Region 4 Futures Tournament in Syracuse in May, and athletes from there were tabbed for the National Futures event in Pennsylvania. Danson’s team Los Angeles went 1-2 in pool play there.

“I have to give her props,” Messier said. “First year with Futures, that’s an amazing accomplishment. The girl works hard.”

Messier is working closely with Danson this season, just like then-senior goalie Meredith Koziol did with Messier in 2015.

“You’ve got to think about this year and next year, too,” Messier said. “As upperclassmen our goal is to go as far as we can, but you’ve got to push the younger players. When I got pulled up as a sophomore I was behind a senior, Meredith. Before her it was Melissa [Nealon].”

Danson was among a group of youngsters that Frevola had join the varsity late last season when the Plainsmen soared through the playoffs to finish unbeaten.

“When we got brought up the other players took us under their wing,” Danson said. “Sheridan helped me a lot and it was great to have that experience leading into this year.”

Danson also competes in lacrosse, and as an attack player helped Shenendehowa’s JV team roll to an unbeaten record last spring. Her mom, Gail Cummings-Danson, was a three-time All-American lacrosse player at Temple University and currently serves as athletic director at Skidmore College. Cummings-Danson scored an NCAA-record 289 goals, including 88 as a senior when Temple  won the Division I title. She was a member of several United States and Canadian national lacrosse teams and is a multi-hall of fame inductee.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, jims@dailygazette.com or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.