By Tony Pinciaro – Kelsey McCrudden would sit and watch her older sister, Erin, during the Shrub Oak Athletic Club youth field hockey program.
A second-grader, at that time, sometimes McCrudden would grab a stick and dribble the ball. Even though McCudden was a grade away from participating in the program, Lakeland varsity field hockey coach Sharon Sarsen made an exception.
“Sars thought I could handle it so she said I could start,” recalled McCrudden, who has verbally committed to attend Albany and play field hockey in September, 2018
McCrudden would start her varsity field hockey career as an eighth-grader at Putnam Valley before her family moved to the Lakeland school district. McCrudden made the Lakeland varsity her freshman year and became an immediate starter, on defense.
Following two years as a starter on defense, McCrudden has been Lakeland’s center midfielder. She leads the team with 26 goals and 18 assists and is a prime-time player for Lakeland as it will embark on a quest for an unprecedented ninth consecutive Section 1 and New York State Class B championship.
The Section 1 Field Hockey Championships seeding meeting took place Monday. Lakeland, 16-0 for the regular season, will be the No. 1 seed in Class B. It appears that Rye and John Jay-Cross River will be the second and third seeds, respectively. Lakeland defeated Rye and John Jay, during the regular season, by 8-0 scores.
Along with being an excellent field hockey player, McCrudden excels in the classroom and was recognized for both as the recent Con-Ed Scholar-Athlete of the Week.
McCrudden enjoyed playing field hockey when she first started. Once she made the Putnam Valley varsity team she realized she loved the sport. Making the Lakeland varsity team is a major accomplishment and to do so as a freshman and newcomer to the district says something of McCrudden’s all-around game.
“I remember the first day I showed up at preseason, I was really nervous,” McCrudden said. “And the day Sars told me I made the team I was so excited.”
McCrudden pointed out that she looked up to the upperclassmen on the team and they were all very helpful and encouraging to her. McCrudden, one of Lakeland’s captains, is following the lead set by previous captains, and is a calming and encouraging teammate.
“I am very proud of the person and athlete Kelsey has become,” Sarsen said. “Kelsey is a great leader for our team, demonstrating commitment, selflessness and working towards a team goal. Kelsey is a strong, yet quiet voice for our team.”
McCrudden recalled that when she was younger, she would go to the field with Erin, currently a member of the U.S Women’s National Field Hockey team, and the older girls and they would practice. Now, McCrudden does the same thing with younger sister, Jenna, a sophomore and teammate, and her friends.
As much as McCrudden enjoys playing field hockey, she always looks forward to coaching future Lakeland field hockey players in the Shrub Oak Athletic Club Youth Field Hockey Program.
“From when I was seven years old, to now, having the experience and looking up to the older girls made me want to be one,” McCrudden said. “This is something that Sars instills in us. We want to do it and that’s why we’re successful because we’re always giving back all the time. I love working with the little kids.”
This enjoyment of working with younger kids has McCrudden thinking about her future. McCrudden is considering studying Pre-Med at Albany which would could possibly lead to a career as a pediatrician.
While McCrudden takes field hockey seriously, she is even more focused on her academics. A member of the National Honor Society, McCrudden credits her parents for instilling academics first with her and her siblings.
“My parents have always said that academics comes first so this is why school is important to me,” McCrudden said. “My parents have always helped me and I’m grateful for them because they have provided such a strong support system.”
Sarsen sees the well-versed person McCrudden is.
“Kelsey has taken on a very challenging class schedule,” Sarsen said. “As well as a being a member of the National Honor Society, Kelsey is the first one to volunteer for any good cause.”
McCrudden and her teammates will begin preparations for a team cause – winning a sectional and state title. She said Lakeland is right where it wants to be going into the postseason.
“We feel confident with the team because our younger players’ games have gotten so much better,” McCrudden said. “As sectionals go forward, we will take it game-by-game. We won’t look ahead because we want to complete the task in front of us, first.”
Lakeland completed its undefeated regular season with a 9-0 victory over intra-district rival, PANAS. Caroline Cahill and Kelsey McCrudden each scored two goals. Julia Papanicolaou added one goal and three assists and Emma Halderman chipped in with a goal and an assist.
Panas qualified for the Section 1 Class B Championships for the third consecutive year with an 8-6-2 record. The previous two years, Panas won its first-round game.
The Panthers closed out the regular season with two losses – to Lakeland and John Jay-Cross River (1-0) and a 1-1 draw with Brewster.
Panas captain Danielle Merante said the Panthers are ready for anything.
“Of course, another home game would be nice, but if we have to go on the road we will not view that as an obstacle,” said Merante, Panas’ leading scorer and center mid. “Anywhere we are playing, we will still come out and play our hardest, no matter the field.”
Despite the loss to John Jay, Merante said the team came away with a positive attitude.
“Having previously lost to them, 4-1, earlier in the season, we were glad to play them much closer the second time around,” explained Merante, who scored the goal against Brewster.
Panas goes into sectional play with a deceiving record and could surprise its opponents.
“Many of our losses were very close, by only a goal, and easily could have been changed completely if we put the ball in the goal just once more in these games,” Merante said.
As a result of this, Panas is preparing to increase its scoring productivity.
“As a team, I think we are feeling good about sectionals,” Merante said. “We have been focusing in on passing more and being more deceptive in our play. Also, we are sharpening our corner plays and really emphasizing, in practice, the need to capitalize.”
PUTNAM VALLEY concluded the regular season winning two of three games. The Tigers defeated Irvington, 2-1, and Briarcliff, 2-0, and were surprised by Edgemont, 2-1.
Senior Taylor Simpson gave Putnam Valley a 1-0 lead, three minutes into the game, against Irvington and sophomore Antonia DiBullo also scored, assisted by Cyera Daughtry.
“We kept the pressure on the whole game with great plays by Joanna Pelc, Taylor Simpson, Antonia DiBullo and, along with our strong defense and goalie Jillian Rodriguez,” Putnam Valley coach Rebecca Gherardi said. “It was a great way to start the week off.”
Sophomore Lauren Seiler opened the scoring against Edgemont, but the Panthers scored two goals in the game’s final 13 minutes.
Danielle Cunningham and Colleen Cassidy scored in the final 14 minutes against Briarcliff for the victory as Putnam Valley finished with a 4-9-3 record.
Gherardi said she and the team will wait to see if they make sectionals and, if so, what their seed will be.
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