Huskies start league play

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Erica Eppolito tries to clear the ball from the Harrison zone at Rye Neck on Sept. 19. Eppolito and the Huskies are currently 1-2-2 on the year.

By MIKE SMITH

After a banner year in 2012, Harrison’s field hockey program is undergoing something of a facelift this year with an influx of talented young players getting their first taste of varsity action. Although these girls might be learning on the fly, they’ve shown a definite ability to hang tough with a difficult Section I schedule and should continue to improve as the team begins to find its rythym.

On Sept. 22, Harrison played its first league game, tying Ossining 2-2. The draw puts Harrison at 1-2-2 on the season as they look to enter the bulk of their league games coming up.

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Elisa Arcara controls the ball against Rye Neck on Sept. 19. With only three returning starters, the Huskies are relying on many new faces this year.

According to head coach Sara Witmer–who has helmed the Harrison program for eight years–the Huskies knew this year would be a learning process, having lost all but three players from a 2012 squad that produced the best year in Harrison field hockey history. Senior Michelle DeLeo along with Zoe Mittman and Grace Manning have filled the spots vacated by the departing stars and have helped Harrison’s numerous rookies adjust to grueling varsity pace.

“We definitely had a lot of senior leadership last year, but our returning girls are stepping into those roles,” Witmer said. “We had to do some more teaching in the preseason, we worked on a lot of skills, definitely moreso this year.”

Harrison’s newcomers have been quick to find their rythym, however, most notably sophomore Christina DeCarlo, who has been a revelation in net, filling the shoes of a three-year starter.

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Harrison goalie Christina DeCarlo makes a save against the Panthers on Sept. 19. DeCarlo, a sophomore, has filled in nicely during her first year on varsity. Photos/Mike Smith

“She’s done a great job for us,” said Witmer of DeCarlo. “She’s handled the pressure well and helped us stay in a couple of games that could have gotten away from us.”

In addition to the play of DeCarlo, the Huskies have also been buoyed by first-year varsity player Christine Cardascia, who is learning on the fly alongside DeLeo. DeLeo, who has three years of varsity experience under her belt, is also moving into a new role as Witmer hopes to use her to generate more offensive chances.

“With Michelle, she had always played in the middle, but we moved her up front this year,” said Witmer. “She’s got a wicked shot.”

After getting their feet wet against Ossining, Harrison dives into the rest of league play this week, with a game against rival Rye on Sept. 25, after press time. The battle with Harrison’s nemeses should prove a good test for the rest of the league matchups on the docket.

“We have one of the most competitive leagues around and the games are usually decided by one goal, or at least that’s how it went last year,” Witmer said.

To remain competitive against top flight competition, the head coach said it will come down to how quickly the girls become used to playing alongside one another.

“There’s always room for improvement,” said Witmer. “We just have to continue to grow and figure out what positions people need to be in.”

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.