Carrie Hanks of Niskayuna High School has made a fast climb in her field hockey career.
“When I first started field hockey, I never thought I’d be on the junior national squad. It’s such a big jump from seventh and eighth grade,” the 16-year-old midfielder said earlier this week. “I never thought I’d be in this position. It’s a good feeling.”
Late last month, Hanks was one of 24 players named to the United States Women’s Junior National under-17 team. She made it through tryouts in Syracuse and Virginia before the 24 were selected from a group of 30 at the Junior National Camp in Massachusetts.
“I didn’t go in expecting to make the team, but I thought I had a chance,” Hanks said of the four-day tryout in Massachusetts. “Like every athlete, you have good days and bad days. I guess I had enough good days.”
Hanks is joined on the national team by fellow New York representatives Amanda Collins (Binghamton) and Kaitlin Trombetta (Holbrook).
“This is the highest level any area player has achieved. It’s pretty unique for a New York athlete to make the national team,” said Jen Sykes, a director and coach for the ADK field hockey club that Hanks competes with. “To be part of that honor, it’s an unbelievable feeling as a coach. It’s a big deal.”
“I had been waiting to hear if I made it. I found out when one of the girls I played with [Linnea Gonzales of Maryland] saw my name on a list and sent me a message on Facebook,” said Hanks. “I just started calling my friends and family to let everyone know.”
The national team will be pared down to 18 players after a camp in January at the Junior Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. That group will begin an international tour in the spring.
“I’m still kind of nervous. One of my coaches told me the most important thing is to not stop working so you can be better than at the last camp,” Hanks said.
Sykes is certain Hanks will take on that challenge.
“She’s the kind of kid who will bring a stick to school and work out in the gym during her free time,” said Sykes. “Her work rate needs to be applauded. If you ask her to work on a skill, she’ll put in the extra time. Her strength is her ability to keep adding skills to her arsenal.”
Hanks helped Niskayuna win Suburban Council championships as a freshman and sophomore, and in both of her varsity seasons, the Silver Warriors reached the Section II Class A title game. Last fall, she was named a Suburban Council second-team all-star for the second time after collecting seven goals and three assists.
“She hits well. She traps the ball clean. She can move the ball with speed,” said Sykes. “She attacks a defender with the attitude of beating that defender one-on-one.”
In February, Hanks competed with ADK’s under-19 team at the U.S. Field Hockey Disney Showcase in Florida. ADK reached the title game at the national event.
Hanks also plays lacrosse at Niskayuna.
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball team will not only have a different look this season, as far as the players who make up the main rotation, but also in the way it creates scoring opportunities.
“This is my 25th season, and for the first time, we’re going to have two setters,” said Spartans coach Gary Bynon. “There are some different things we can do with two setters. We can give teams different looks, and that can be key when we’re trying to get the last few points in a game.”
Senior Erica Ziskin and sophomore Jessica Dillon will be filling the setter roles and are two of nine players back from last year’s team that went 29-2 and earned the school’s fourth state championship.
Among the six players who graduated are all-state first-team setter Natalie Ziskin, who set a BH-BL career record with 3,539 assists.
“The setter is your quarterback out there. We’ll have two real good ones out there,” said Bynon. “They’re both bright kids who want to do well for the team.”
Senior Molly McCormack takes over as the team’s primary outside hitter. Junior Kathleen Schurman and sophomore Jaleah Owens are also back, and will see increased time. Newcomer Natalie Schurman, a freshman, will push for time at outside hitter.
“Molly was our second outside last year,” said Bynon, who lost net standouts Lizzy Morton, Jeanette Braun and Kaitlyn Valade to graduation. “Last year, she just got better and better, and from the very first minute of practice on Monday, she’s played great volleyball.”
Great defense played a huge role in Burnt Hills’ run to the state Class A title, and two significant back-row players have returned to the fold in seniors Siena Wilder and Natalie Moore. Wilder made the all-state first team in 2011 after collecting 504 digs.
“So much of last year was because of our defense,” said Bynon, whose team piled up 71 digs in a four-game win over Our Lady of Mercy in the state final. “Our kids take a great deal of pride in their defense, and with our anchors in the back row, we’re going to stay in points. We’ve got two of the best backs around.”
Junior Lindsay Bynon is another returning defensive specialist, while senior middle blocker Lynsea Hensel returns, as well.
“A lot of our success will depend on our senior leadership, and how our role players accept their roles,” said Bynon.
Burnt Hills has won 24 straight league titles and 313 consecutive league matches with Bynon, to go along with 17 Section II championships and 13 regional banners.
“Someone is going to win the league. Someone is going to win the section. Someone is going to win the state. All we ask is for our kids to go out there and do what we teach here,” said Bynon.
Bynon wants his team to be prepared, play hard and smart, and play with class. Those are just some of the things the veteran coach stresses every day, though.
“We ask them to be good students. Be good members of the community. Be good teammates,” he said. “Then we talk about volleyball.”
Drescher CBA AD
Christian Brothers Academy graduate Blaine Drescher has been appointed the school’s new athletic director and varsity ice hockey coach.
Drescher became CBA’s all-time points and assists leader while playing hockey for the Brothers, and also competed in soccer and baseball.
He served as a student assistant hockey coach at SUNY-Cortland where he received a Masters of Science degree. Drescher has also been an assistant varsity baseball and hockey coach at CBA, and has worked in the North Colonie Youth Baseball League.
Drescher will replace Dave Doemel as CBA’s athletic director, and take over for Jeff Fraser as the Brothers’ hockey coach. Fraser guided CBA to the Section II Division I semifinals last season.