Jeanne Frevola likes to throw pizza parties. It means her Shenendehowa field hockey players are producing.
“If a girl scores 10 goals, we’ll have a party. It’s become one of our traditions,” said the veteran coach. “I hope we can have a couple of celebrations this year.”
Frevola passed out the slabs just once last season, at a get-together after Melissa Nealon posted her 10th shutout. Nealon is back for her third varsity season along with the rest of Shenendehowa’s starting cast including fellow Suburban Council first-team all-stars Anna Bottino and Erin Buckley.
Only two players graduated from Shenendehowa’s 13-6 team (9-5 league), reserve goalkeeper Jen Scuderi and back-up defender Kendall Scanlon.
“The only thing holding us back is putting in more goals,” said Frevola. “Last year was a low year for us.”
That inability to generate goals caught up to the Lady Plainsmen last fall in the Section II Class A championship game which Niskayuna won, 1-0, in overtime. Frevola guided the Lady Plainsmen to Section II titles in each of the two years before, as well as in 2008.
“I usually don’t say it, but I’m expecting a lot,” said Frevola. “These girls were undefeated at the modified and junior varsity levels, and they’ve played in championship games. They’ve played together. They’re in good shape.”
But can they score enough goals to make a run at Suburban Council and sectional championships? Shenendehowa last accomplished the double in 2010, when all-state performer Megan Rogers set a school record with 24 goals.
“At our play day [last Wednesday], we scored eight goals in three half-games. I was happy with that. I was happy about how we finished,” said Frevola, whose team met up with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Greenwich and Hoosick Falls. “We had some beautiful crosses and connections.
“I hope we can carry that momentum into the season, get on a roll and start winning.”
Anna Branch, Caroline Cady and Nicole daCunha will join Bottino up front, and midfielder Molly Hagen is another scoring threat. The second-team SC all-star scored the deciding goal in the second round of overtime strokes when Shenendehowa clipped Saratoga Springs, 1-0, in last year’s Class A semifinals. Bottino, who is headed to the University at Albany, scored a pair of goals in Shenendehowa’s 4-0 quarterfinal win against Shaker before that contest.
“We’ve been working on a couple of different things,” said Frevola. “We want to have options in terms of attacking.”
Defense was Shenendehowa’s strength last year. Defenders Buckley, Morgan Van Epps and Kendall Pelletier are back to patrol in front of Nealon, joining the midfield cast that includes Claire Virkler and Mckenna Robinson.
Nealon and the other goalkeepers will be on her own in a new overtime procedure that will ensue if a game is still tied after two 10-minute seven-on-sevens. The procedure, which replaces strokes, will have five players from each team going one-on-one with the goalie, starting from the 25-yard line, in a 10-second scoring bid.
“I like my chances with Melissa,” said Frevola. “She’s a great one-on-one goalie.”
Shenendehowa will host Shaker today to open Suburban Council play. Two-time defending league champ Niskayuna plays at Saratoga Springs, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake travels to Bethlehem and Guilderland hosts Columbia.
Burnt Hills is the reigning Section II Class B champion.