You’ve got to go hard, and you’ve got to have some moves to make an impact playing field hockey at the college level.
That’s the message Saratoga Springs coach Jo-Anne Hostig passed along to Celia D’Agostino before her third varsity season.
“Coach wants me to be more aggressive and fight for it,” said the junior, a forward and midfielder for the unbeaten Blue Streaks. “I like it when coach tells me what I need to do to become a better player. She knows what she’s talking about.”
D’Agostino has been a different player this season, answering her coach’s call with vigorous play while leading Saratoga to the top of the Suburban Council standings.
“She wants to play in college. She wants to go forward in field hockey,” said Hostig. “When we talked about it in the offseason, I knew she needed to be more aggressive, and I told her so. I told her that’s what college coaches look for, and she’s taken on that role. She’s taking charge out there.”
The 16-year-old D’Agostino, a classroom standout with aspirations of a career in engineering, is piecing together a phenomenal fall season. She registered a goal and an assist in Saratoga’s season-opening 4-2 win against Guilderland, then assisted Megan Leanza on the deciding goal in a follow-up 2-1 triumph against Niskayuna. The points have kept coming via accurate drives and nifty passes to teammates.
With seven assists, the first-team Suburban Council all-star has already equaled her total from 2009. D’Agostino also has six goals, just four shy of her total from a year ago when Saratoga placed second in the Section II Class A tournament.
“Last year, she was surrounded by experienced players,” said Hostig. “The others are looking at her for a little more this year, with the ball and verbally.”
“I believe you should always look for leadership from coach and the captains first, but I will encourage my teammates, and I will help them as much as I can,” said D’Agostino. “I try to make them better if I see something. It just makes the team better.”
The team is off to a 7-0 start — including six league wins — and D’Agostino has notched at least a point in every one. Among her biggest was an assist on Sarah Ryan’s goal that lifted Saratoga past reigning Section II Class B champ Glens Falls, 1-0.
“I’m always trying to reach personal goals. It’s good to have a number to shoot for, but you’ve got to be a team player,” D’Agostino said. “The most important thing is wins.”
Saratoga won 14 games last season before bowing to Niskayuna in the sectional final, 2-1. Saratoga’s 2008 team won 16 games, but its season also ended with a Class A title-game loss, 1-0, against Shenendehowa.
“I think this is our year. Our returning players can remember those games,” said D’Agostino. “We had great teams. We had a lot of potential. Thinking about how those seasons ended, that definitely fires us up.”
D’Agostino is one of only three returning starters from a year ago, along with midfielder Katie Hurley and defender Amanda Ryan.
“We have a lot of young girls, but it really doesn’t show when we step on the field,” D’Agostino said. “Girls have filled spots, and we’ve done well.”
D’Agostino has done well in her new assignment as a hitter on the top of the circle when Saratoga takes its penalty corners. She produced the deciding goal on a corner in a
2-0 win against rival Shenendehowa, and her key feed in the Glens Falls game also completed a successful corner.
“I was an inserter. Moving up to the circle, so many things go through you head. You’ve got to act fast,” said D’Agostino. “It’s been good, though, and when I make a mistake, I’ve got my teammates. Someone is there to back me up.”
“I put her there to feed or shoot. On a corner you need that quick decision making and reaction. She’s good at reading what’s going on, and she’s getting better because she’s worked very, very hard at it,” said Hostig. “She’s very coachable, and she’ll try anything. Then she’ll stay after practice and keep working on it.”
“With practice comes results,” said D’Agostino, who has been honing her skills since taking up the game in third grade. “I’m always working on something. I love it.”
D’Agostino has been working diligently on changing her pace while dribbling the ball, a difficult move to master, yet one essential for success at the collegiate level and beyond.
“To play in college, you’ve got to get used to girls all around you, and you have to have a change of speed,” said Hostig. “We’ve talked about it. It will make her harder to defend. It will help her get by people, and help her get off a faster shot.”
“Change of speed is definitely very important. Coach pointed that out,” said D’Agostino. “It gets me into open space, and that’s what I want.”
Emily Riley was among the best Saratoga has ever had in open space, and she finished her career in 2007 with a school-record 41 goals before moving on to St. Lawrence University.
“Emily was one of those players who kept getting better and better over the course of her career, and in her senior year, she just went to a higher level,” said Hostig. “I can see that happening with Celia. When I watch her, it reminds me of Emily. There’s more to come out of her.”
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Categories: High School Sports