Coaching a fall sport is unique compared to winter and spring. And second-year Scarsdale field hockey coach Lauren Barton loves what makes the fall different: the preseason.
School hasn’t yet started, so teams have two weeks — all day if a coach chooses — to practice and spend time together. Barton and her Raiders took full advantage of that time and came into the new season ready on and off the field.
“Preseason is so much fun,” Barton said. “It’s just field hockey. Not that I don’t love school, but you’re totally focused on this.”
The Raiders stayed local for the most part, with the exception of an overnight trip to Boston. The girls scrimmaged North Salem locally, went to a ropes course/water park called Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park in Connecticut, had a potluck dinner with a team in Boston and then scrimmaged that team the next morning. “It was a short trip, but a good experience,” Barton said. “It was nice to play against people in a friendly match.”
There was also summer strength and conditioning workouts at the high school in the mornings.
“Throughout the summer we worked a lot in the fitness center, so we really got to work with the underclassmen,” senior captain Sophie Carroll said. “We were able to make sure they fit in. Bringing that into the tryout gave them more confidence not to be afraid to pass the ball or anything like that.”
Barton is leaning on her tri-captains, Liz Scarcella, Sophia Franco and Carroll, to keep the team as a tight-knit unit.
“It’s their senior year and they’re our three midfielders, so they literally have the opportunity to control the game from a physical component, a mental component and any other piece,” Barton said.
Graduating nine seniors, including six starters, and coming back with nine returning players and a roster mostly made up of underclassmen, four freshmen among them, Scarsdale hasn’t let a challenging team dynamic get in the way of achieving results. The Raiders opened the season with a win in the Somers Tournament, topping Mahopac 9-1 in the first round and the host 4-1 in the finals.
“As captains we need to show a positive attitude on and off the field, do a lot of team bonding,” Carroll said. “We’re brining everyone together and inspiring the younger players to continually work hard. That shows in our games how well we work together.”
Connecting off the field helped the team connect on the field. “To score goals and win is a nice way to start, just to know you are capable of scoring goals, that you are capable of keeping the score down,” Barton said. “The competition is going to change, but scoring and connecting and scoring on corners was huge. We see some weaknesses exposed, too.”
In addition to the midfielder captains, the Raiders got strong performances from Andie Novenstein, who had one goal in the first game and two in the finals, plus the defense — Victoria Wilson Olivia Franco, Emily Felder and Maeve Jacobson — in front of goalies Angela Hoey and Chinasa Ohajekwe.
The girls felt they came out flat against Mahopac, though they picked up the pace and never looked back in a dominant effort.
“We’re very happy to get the two wins in, but we still have to keep working hard for the rest of the season because any given day any given team can be an underdog or cause an upset,” Franco said. “As long as we keep working and connecting as a team like we have in the past, we’re very confident in the season.”
Somers was a tougher opponent, but the Raiders still came out strong with two goals in under two minutes to start the game.
“The next day they were able to connect more with their passes,” Scarcella said. “We had to learn more how to use both sides of the field. The first day we were very good with switching the field. The second day we focused too much on one side and we were struggling defensively with the transfers. By the end of the second half I think we picked that up again and started doing give-and-gos from the left, center, right.”
Barton used the tournament to try out different plays and combinations of players on the field to see how everything was starting to take shape.
“The whole season is a learning process, so we take from any one game what we can to move forward,” Barton said. “It could be somebody at a different position or we need to incorporate more passing or change the field more or make better use of our right side, whatever it may be. There are things in a game you only see that you don’t in practice when you scrimmage.”
As freshmen, Franco, Carroll and Scarcella won the Section 1 title and made the New York State finals. “Ultimately that’s the major goal of any team, but we have been there before,” Franco said. “Our goal is to take it one step at a time and focus on the game at hand and each practice, too.”