By MIKE SMITH
With the start of the 2013 field hockey season less than a week away, the Rye Garnets are looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Lakeland in the section finals. But with a talented group of returnees and some fresh faces, the Garnets should bounce back to once again vie for a Class B crown.
Chief among Rye’s returnees are Meredith Tibbals and Alex Bennett, two all-state talents who will look to lead Rye this year. Bennett, who moved from midfield to defense last year, is back in her natural position, something that head coach Emily Fitzgerald will be a boon to the team as the season goes on.
“We had to fill some holes last year, but we were able to move her back this year,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to help us, having her controlling both the offense and the defense this year.”
The Garnets will have many capable players on the offensive end as veterans and rookies alike figure to play big roles this year. Both Emily Antonozzi and Fusine Gouaert, a ninth-grade transfer student from the Netherlands, figure to jumpstart a Garnet offense that wasn’t known for prolific outbursts in the 2012 season.
“I think we have good experience both at mid and forward,” said Fitzgerald. “One of our biggest goals is to be well-balanced and we did have some trouble finishing last year.”
As always, Rye will play an extremely challenging schedule, taking on stiff non-league competition, including teams like last year’s Class A champs from Suffern and the Class C champion Bronxville squad as well as Section I stalwarts like Mamaroneck and Nyack.
“We play our regular league schedule, but with all the games we picked up, those are good teams,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s definitely a tough schedule.”
So far, however, Fitzgerald has been happy with the team’s preseason play, especially the team’s performance in scrimmages, and believes that, when the dust is settled, the Garnets will be in the mix for a title come November.
“These girls have another year under their belts, we’re pretty deep in our forwards and we have a good amount of subs who can go in and play well,” she said. “We’ve got those fresh legs, we’ve just got to click.”
The Garnets will kick off the season on Sept. 9 when they travel to Valhalla to take on the Vikings. They won’t play their first home game until Sept. 17, when they take on Briarcliff in non-league competition.