CLIFTON PARK – It’s a postseason unlike any other for the Shenendehowa field hockey team.
But something that’s stayed the same: The Plainsmen are heading to a championship game.
While coronavirus-related restrictions eliminated Section II and state championship opportunities, the Suburban Council put together end-of-year tournaments for its team sports – and Shenendehowa, determined to send its retiring head coach Jeanne Frevola out with one more title, claimed its spot in Friday’s championship game with a 5-1 semifinal win Wednesday against Guilderland.
Top-seeded Shenendehowa will face second-seeded Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in Friday’s final on the Plainsmen’s home turf.
“Right now, they’re peaking and they’re ready for the next game,” said Frevola, whose program played in a Section II championship game every year from 2010 through 2019. “They’re excited. They’re firing on all cylinders. We had a lot of different people helping out tonight and it’s exciting to watch.”
Junior Hannah Merritt led the Plainsmen with two goals and an assist, while senior captain Rachel Sterle had two goals. Senior Julianna Kuzmich finished with a goal and an assist in the win.
When asked, Frevola reluctantly talked about her upcoming retirement and thoughts about the tournament final
“I’m glad that the kids are still playing,” she said. “I’m happy that we won; I really didn’t want it to end tonight.”
Instead, Frevola’s final game to cap a run of 20-plus years at Shenendehowa that has included six Section II championships and two state championships is still to come.
“Now,” Frevola said, “that will be Friday – no matter what.”
Merritt opened Wednesday’s scoring with 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter with a laser from 15 yards out that hit nothing but the back board of the goal.
“Honestly, I was just trying to go for a cross, maybe someone would get it in, or the goalie would get it out and we’d get a rebound,” Merritt said. “It just went in. I was just so shocked.”
She followed it up later in the second quarter with an assist on Sterle’s first goal of the contest, then Sterle opened the third quarter with her second goal. Merritt added her second goal later in the third quarter and Kuzmich scored in the fourth before Hannah Risko scored for Guilderland to close the game’s scoring.
“It felt so good because I haven’t really had many goals this year, maybe one,” Merritt said. “It felt really good and everyone was really helping me out there.”
Shenendehowa and Burnt Hills will meet Friday in a rare championship contest between the two schools. In normal years, Shenendehowa plays at the Class A level and Burnt Hills competes in Class B, so the two powerhouse programs are not generally postseason rivals.
Burnt Hills has captured the last eight Section II Class B titles, while the Plainsmen won five Class A titles in the last 10 years.
Heading into that championship game, the Plainsmen are confident.
“The reason we’re playing so well is because we’re building off each other and we’re all giving the best parts of our game to the game for everyone,” Kuzmich said.
And, for Friday, the Plainsmen will have extra motivation to be at their best.
“This is the coach’s last hurrah. It definitely puts a lot of pressure on me, personally,” Kuzmich said. “She’s been my coach for three years and there is nothing I want more than to make her happy and to end her season the same way I want to end my season.”
In short: With a win.
Shenendehowa 0 2 2 1 — 5
Guilderland 0 0 0 1 — 1
Guilderland scoring: Risko 1-0. Shenendehowa scoring: Merritt 2-1, Sterle 2-0, Kuzmich 1-1, Westervelt 0-1, Fedden 0-1. Goalies: Guilderland, Simone, 20 saves. Shenendehowa, Kisling, 1 save.