A lot of teams kickoff their preseason by claiming their #1 goal is to earn a trip to States.
When Williamsville North and Barker listed that as their top aims of the season, well, they meant it.
Both teams entered the season knowing they had the talent – the only question was whether they would be able to overcome the adversity they would inevitably face down the stretch.
The Lady Raiders, along with Roy-Hart, entered the season as the two heavy favorites to come out on top in the Niagara-Orleans league and Class C. After giving up an early-season loss to Akron, Barker went on a 13-game winning streak against Section VI teams to claim the Section VI Class C Championship.
Getting there was no easy feat – they trailed Akron early in their semifinal game and needed a goal from Natalie Bruning in the last 20 seconds to knock off Eden in the Finals.
That set them up with a matchup against East Rochester in the Far West Regionals – a game in which they’d again have to come-from-behind if they were to advance. Junior Katrina Clare went on to score a hat-trick – including the winning goal in overtime – to send Barker to the State Tournament.
The Lady Raiders would fall to Carle Place in the semifinals, but for a team who returns everybody except their two seniors (Goalie Paige Sandolfini and Defense/Mid Erin Costello), the Lady Raiders are poised to make another deep playoff run in 2019.
Head Coach Jeff Costello had this to say following the season:
“Carle Place was a very strong, physical, skilled and fast team. We met our match in the semis with them, but even though we made some mistakes in the game and could have played a bit better, we were definitely beaten by a better team. I think our players were able to accept that and the hope is that it will fuel the fire for 2019 with so many players coming back. There are no guarantees for next season, but our players definitely know what it takes to get to where they advanced and now they also know what it takes to get beyond that point. I’m extremely proud of what our girls accomplished this season and will remember all of the comebacks and the many other special moments of the Sister Squad.”
The first major test for the Lady Spartans came against Clarence in the Section VI Class A Finals where they would face off with a Red Devil team that had been nipping at their heels in the standings all season. They delivered a 5-0 victory in a torrential downpour to move on to Far West Regionals.
The next major test came against Fairport when the Red Raiders scored the equalizer less than a minute into the second half. Williamsville North responded by completely locking down their defensive end and closing out the game with a 3-1 win.. dominating play in the last 29 minutes.
Their next bout with adversity came against Sachem East – in the state semifinals – a game in which the Lady Spartan offense was forced to drop back and help on the defensive front to ward off a relentless Flaming Arrows attack.
They bent, but they didn’t break, ultimately winning the game in overtime thanks to last-minute heroics from junior Erin Roland.
Williamsville North finished the year with a 19-2 record, earned a trip to the State Finals and in doing so, delivered the program’s best season since 2010.
Accomplishing that feat meant leaning heavily on the senior leadership of Lauren Rabinowitz (18 goals, 8 assists), Jordan Cooper (14 goals, 7 assists) and Jenna Piotrowski (6 goals, 10 assists); a defensive front led by Bre Shannon, Ryleigh Bies and Paige Timby; and goalie Samantha Mallare (1.07 GAA).
Couple that senior experience with a pair of star juniors in Erin Roland (14 goals, 15 assists), Emma Roland (14 goals, 8 assists) and up-and-coming 8th grader Molly Martin (10 goals, 5 assists); the Lady Spartans simply proved to be too much for anybody they came across on their road to States.
Kylie Rosen (8 goals, 2 assists), Gabby Manzella (3 goals, 4 assists), Sydney Moyer, Danielle Batz, Courtney Bangert, Kerry Gramlich and Sarah Quinlan round out a senior group who finish their high school field hockey careers winning 37 of 40 games the last two seasons.
Just par for the course in a program that has retained a tradition of excellence in recent years.
That tradition will continue when Halle Petrillo, Natalia Matys, Caitlin Wells, Sarah Matesic, Taylor Wendel and sophomore Hannah Shannon step into leadership positions during their quest to defend their Section VI and Far West Regional Championships in 2019.
“I still can’t believe what we were able to accomplish this year – on the field we knew we could do it – but it was everything that happened outside of the game that I’m most grateful for, ” said Head Coach Jessica Rys. “The way our seniors led, the way our younger players did everything in their power to contribute.. it was truly a special year and one that we’ll never forget. The seniors that are moving on left a tremendous mark on our program and are leaving huge shoes to fill.. but I’m confident that with our younger players having the experience to play with them, and the character of our girls who will be moving up from JV next year, that Williamsville North Field Hockey will continue to be a program our alumni can be proud of.”