Perfection isn’t part of the Shenendehowa plan, but getting to another championship field hockey game is.
“My job is to prepare them for the end,” said veteran Lady Plainsmen coach Jeanne Frevola. “If we take a few bumps, OK.”
Shenendehowa has been consistent with its ability to develop under fire in the tough Suburban Council and forge late-season success in recent years, making it to six of the last eight Section II Class A title games and winning four of them. Last year’s team was the program’s best ever, following its run through the area tournament with a first regional and state championship.
“We’ve always gotten better,” said Frevola. “It’s not the end of the world if we lose a game in the regular season. It’s not fatal. It’s fatal in the playoffs.”
Shenendehowa lost 11 seniors from its playoff-sweeping team, nine of them to college programs, leaving Frevola with a mix of new players from an undefeated junior varsity and a handful of letterwinners. Only two of them — goalkeeper Melissa Nealon and defender Morgan Van Epps — started on last year’s 20-2 team.
“We have room for improvement. We’re concentrating on what we need to do,” said Frevola. “We need some time to grow.”
Frevola believes they Lady Plainsmen, like last year’s team that lost to Niskayuna twice in the Suburban Council before edging the Silver Warriors in the Class A final. Shenendehowa also won Section II titles in 2011, 2010 and 2008 under Frevola.
“I have a solid group. I’m looking to be in the mix,” said Frevola. “Niskayuna lost a lot. We lost a lot. Saratoga has the best numbers. That doesn’t always mean they are the ones to move on.”
Shenendehowa’s veteran group includes forwards Rachel Picchi, Ashley Malmberg, Katie Kerner and injured Emily Fraser, and defender Tess Necaise. Picchi is the top returning goal scorer, netting five of Shenendehowa’s school-record 82 as a junior.
Picchi’s most significant goal came in the state title game late in the second half, tying it before Shenendehowa prevailed over Sachem East, 3-2, on Anna Bottino’s goal in a shootout.
“We’ve been doing a lot of offensive drills. The girls are starting to play better,” said Frevola. “The other day at a scrimmage Melissa goes to me, ‘Coach, don’t worry about the offense. They’re looking like last year’s team.’ ”
NEALON ON WATCH LIST
Nealon is among nine New York field hockey players on the MaxPreps New England Preseason Players-to-Watch list.
Nealon enters her fifth varsity season with 42 shutouts. She posted 14 of them last year, made 117 saves and allowed 11 goals.
The University at Albany-bound senior has twice been named a first-team Suburban Council all-star, and twice captured gold with ADK’s under-19 team at the National Field Hockey Festival.
One hundred players were selected to the MaxPreps list. Nealon is Section II’s only representative.