Hornets Nip Greeley, Fall at Mamaroneck in Clashes of Titans
Examiner Sports Editor@Directrays
In 2008, U.S. President Barack Obama had just won the first of two terms; NY Giant WR David Tyree’s improbable catch in Super Bowl 42 set up Eli Manning’s game-winning TD pass to Plaxico Burress and denied the New England Patriots a perfect season; Breaking Bad was just getting started; and the Lakeland High field hockey team lost to Putnam Valley in the Section 1 Class B finals.
Since then, Obama went two terms before the country tuned him out by tuning in Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton; the Giants have encountered portions of their worst stretch in history; Breaking Bad ran for five incredible seasons before the short-lived Better Call Saul prequel; and 13-time NYSPHSAA champion Lakeland, which has won 10 of the last 11 Class B state titles, went 211-straight games without a loss to a Section 1 opponent until last Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Class A Mamaroneck.
Lakeland Coach Sharon Sarsen’s Hornets outlasted them all, and, along the way, set the standard for NYS field hockey programs while setting the Section 1 record for consecutive unbeaten games.
“It’s been an absolute honor and pleasure to lead this field hockey program through each and every day,” Sarsen said. “The longevity of this “streak” was unbelievable, and often had me shaking my head in disbelief that it had truly been so long. The amount of big games and big performances by so, so, so many athletes that have worn our uniform is also hard to fathom. Just proves how amazing these girls are. They were able to overcome the burden and pressure and still shine so brightly.”
Sarsen challenges her girls in different ways to be the best they can be on and off the field, and they’ve all bought in over the course of her 39-year career.
“I always challenge the adages such as ‘you can’t win them all’, or ‘you gotta lose sometimes’ by arguing, ‘yes you can’ and ‘no you don’t’.”
The streak is over, but there’s no end in sight for Sars, a John Jay CR and SUNY Cortland grad.
“I’m hoping we get the chance to start a new “streak” Monday against Lourdes, and I hope I’m around for another 211!”
Sarsen knew darn well back in September when she built her schedule that her youthful club would be pushed to the limit by perennial Class A powers Mamaroneck and 2019 NYS Class A runner-up Horace Greeley within a span of three days, so to come away with a spilt, including Thursday’s 2-1 win over the Quakers, wasn’t so bad after all.
Mamaroneck is nobody’s slouch and Coach John Savage has spent the last quarter century challenging Sarsen’s Hornets and molding his teams in their image. He leant some spectacular perspective to the streak.
“First, the respect I have for Sharon Sarsen and the girls who have played for her cannot be justified by words,” Savage said. “It is something you are just amazed by. Many years ago I modeled my program after hers, although I have never come close to accomplishing what she and the girls have achieved. Their work ethic and character are to be admired. They arrived at Mamaroneck as champions and left as champions. Gracious would not do them justice when trying to describe how they reacted when the game ended. They gave all a team could give but tonight was just not their night.
“So, 211 is a number that will be forever remembered by everyone in Section 1 because of the many individuals who played a part in it,” Savage added. “How tough they played, the time put in by coaches and players, parents and the community to support the program is remarkable. In my opinion, we have all been treated to an amazing accomplishment that I believe will never be beaten. Also, in all those contests the Lakeland program always looked to play the best competition. It takes skill to be the best and character to stay there. That should tell you something about Coach Sarsen and her many players.”
Sarsen knew coming in, after losing a ton to graduation, that her team would be pushed to new limits in 2020, a year that was anything but normal, due to coronavirus protocols and the late start to an abbreviated season with no sectional or state tournaments.
“I thought we stole one against Greeley, and I was okay with that,” said Sarsen, the Westchester County, NYSPHSAA and National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Famer.
Against undefeated Mamaroneck, the Hornets (8-1) and Tigers were tied at 1-all through three quarters before a pair of defensive breakdowns on the Lakeland end resulted in two unanswered goals, which gave Mamo’ its first win over Lakeland since 2004, thus ending an unbeaten streak of 211 games; unlike anything ever seen in Section 1 history.
Against Greeley (8-1), Lakeland’s Jaden Ray (6G, 12A) and Keirra Ettere (20G, 6A) each scored and assisted on the other goal, both coming off corners in the early stages of the first quarter. Meanwhile, Lakeland D Emily McGovern shadowed Greeley stud and Colgate-bound Lily Schoonmaker, who finally broke through late in the fourth for the Quakers’ only score. It was the first goal of the season against Hornet sophomore G Celeste Pagliaroli. McGovern had a defensive save with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter and off-coursed a Greeley shot off a corner early in the fourth quarter that seemed labeled for a goal. The entire Lakeland defense and midfield were sharp on stops and clears.
“I’m shocked,” said Sarsen, the Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School athletic coordinator and a physical education teacher. “Our defense is so inexperienced. They bent and did not break.Emily McGovern was clutch marking Lily Schoonmaker. We competed and corners are becoming a strength.”
We knew how great they were,” said Lakeland senior Emma Fon, who has 12G and 5A this season. “We knew we were going to have to play our best game ever and we talked about that in practice and before the game. We need our A-game and we brought it. Our defense played very, very strong, quick to the ball and they kept their feet moving against their very strong players. Everybody just came to the game prepared.
“We don’t really focus on our past, instead we focus on our future,” Fon said of the streak. “We know that we need to play our best for each other, not for our legacy.”
Greeley did not come out sharp. Lakeland can bring out the jitters, and the Quakers were overwhelmed early on, allowing two quick corners, and the Hornets banged the boards each time. The final three quarters were a different story, Greeley a different team, forcing the issue while playing from behind for the first time all year.
“First quarter we came out slow, a little bit nervous,” Greeley Coach Sukhi Sandhu admitted. “The last three quarters we had better planning and we stepped up. We felt like another three, four minutes and we might catch them. They are an experienced team and they know how to waste the time and that makes a big difference. If we had more time, it should be a different game. But they are a different team than any other in the section, smart and experienced.”
NOTES: If you read this notebook regularly, you knew before anyone that Section 1 would opt against hosting sectional championships in all competitive fall sports due to coronavirus concerns. Instead, as we told you last week, Section 1 has devised a regional tournament plan that will crown six champions in all: two in Southern Westchester (large and small schools), two in Northern Westchester/Putnam (large and small schools), one in Dutchess and one in Rockland.