SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Jo-Anne Hostig was among the many Saratoga coaches who pitched in as part of a successful food drive Tuesday in front of the high school. Behind it, work of a different kind took place on a new turf field the veteran field hockey coach cannot wait to get on.
Hostig has developed one of Section II's best programs, and the turf, she's confident, will make the Blue Streaks that much better.
"It's time. We're overdue," Hostig said. "I only had two things left on my field hockey bucket list. First was getting turf. Second was a state title."
Hostig saw up close the value of having a turf field back in 2004, when Saratoga was vying for its first state title with her at the helm.
"All of the teams there were turf teams except us," Hostig said of that year's state Class A final four, where her Blue Streaks beat Whitney Point before a loss to Mamaroneck. "That was an eye-opener. You can do certain things you can't do on grass."
Saratoga's multi-purpose turf field is just one part of a $15.6 million Great Outdoors Capital Project district voters approved in May of 2018. The project called for mostly outdoor improvements and renovations at all eight school buildings and at Gavin Park, West Side Recreation Field and East Side Recreation Field, which is having infield turf for the baseball facility installed there.
"Our projects are in place and everything is on schedule," Saratoga athletic director Nick McPartland said. "The turf field [at the high school] will be ready by fall."
For the last several years, Saratoga field hockey hosted some regular season and Section II playoff games on the turf at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury as a prep for the state tournament. Saratoga's home field at the high school is grass covered.
"She [Hostig] is really excited," McPartland said. "She is such an invested coach. She deserves it, and the kids do, too."
Field hockey on grass and field hockey on turf are two different games, and a "turf team" often has the advantage when hosting a "grass team" or playing one on a neutral-location turf field. Turf players are more accustomed to a faster pace of play and the speed of the ball, and have specific skill sets they've honed and can use effectively on the smooth surface.
"This will help some of the disparity," Hostig said.
While Hostig's teams have won five Section II titles since 2004, only that 2004 edition made it to the state final. Her 2007 and 2014 editions lost in the state semifinals, and her 2017 and 2018 teams lost in regional games.
"It's a game changer for our program." Hostig said. "I'm so glad we did it."
Saratoga's turf field can also be used for soccer, football and lacrosse games and practices, for baseball and softball practices, as well as for physical education classes during school hours.
"A lot of our fields don't get a break," said Saratoga varsity football coach Terry Jones. "We use the same fields in the fall and spring, and this will alleviate some of the ware and tare."
The Great Outdoors Capital Project included the installation of a new irrigation system for Saratoga's grass varsity football field, and a new concession stand and bathrooms at the football complex in front of the high school.
"I prefer playing on grass," Jones said. "The advantage we have with the turf is if there's really bad weather, it's available."
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.