By MIKE SMITH
On Nov. 2, the Rye Neck field hockey team lost to a red-hot North Salem team in the Class B
finals, ending the Panthers’ solid postseason run. Despite the loss to the Bears, however, second-year head coach Beth Gulotta has been impressed with the strides made by the Panthers team this year.
Top-seeded North Salem came out strong on Saturday, getting four goals from four different players and not allowing the second-seeded Panthers to record a shot on goal for a 4-0 win. Having gone up against the Bears before, Gulotta said she expected North Salem to come out with a lot of energy. Unfortunately, the Panthers just couldn’t match it on Saturday.
“We knew they were a solid team coming in and that they always play with passion,” Gulotta said. “But honestly, I think we just lacked that intensity coming into the game.”
The Bears controlled the ball for much of the game, keeping sophomore goalie Julia Gutterman on her toes by firing 15 shots on goal. Gutterman’s 11 saves were one of the few bright spots for the Panthers on an otherwise dismal day.
“She had an excellent game, she was so amazing for us,” Gulotta said. “If it wasn’t for how she played, it could have ben 10-0.”
Gulotta has been impressed with Gutterman’s play all season, as the sophomore had the unenviable task to replacing graduated goalie Elena Hurlbut, but has come on to be one of the Panthers’ biggest stars.
“Her transformation has been enormous, coming from the summer league where she was new to the position on the varsity level,” said Gulotta. “I’m definitely excited to have her back there for the next two years.”
The Panthers will graduate five seniors from this year’s team, many of them stalwarts on the defensive end, so Gutterman will need to anchor a revamped defensive core in 2014. She will join Briana Cefaloni and Nicole Miller as the players Gulotta has tabbed to lead the team next fall.
“With Briana and Nicole, they’re just going to continue to step up in the leadership role,” Gulotta said. “I’m going to look for them to motivate the team, and they already do a really good job of that.”
With 2013 in the books, Gulotta said the Rye Neck program could be poised for big things in the coming years.
“It’s only my second year here as varsity coach, but I think every year we are making great improvements,” she said. “This is near and dear to my heart, since I played here. We’re looking to rebuild the kind of name that Rye Neck used to have, and we’re making great strides.”