Carle Place field hockey looking to recapture past glory

From left, Carle Place varsity field hockey teammates From left, Carle Place varsity field hockey teammates Elissa Frein, Sophia Urrutia, Lydia Rice, Shannon McGuinness and Kailee Pagnotta pose for a group portrait after practice. (Oct. 23, 2013) Photo Credit: James Escher

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The field hockey championship banners hang prominently in the Carle Place High School gymnasium -- green and white commemoratives of a rich past that includes 23 county championships, 13 Long Island titles and six state crowns.

"We're constantly reminded," midfielder Shannon McGuinness said. "You see our Hall of Fame, walking through the hallways you see all the old pictures and awards."

The team can't escape those history lessons. In fact, coach Carol Nesdill uses those ornaments as motivational tools. Her daughter, Tricia Nesdill, now an assistant coach, was a member of the program's last county championship squad in 2005 and recently was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame. And a few of the girls hear tales of glory from their mothers who played on the 1980s teams.

As for 2013?

"We're good, but not very good," Carol Nesdill said. "We're not a championship team yet. What have I done in the last eight years?"

Seven county finals appearances . . . zero championships. And that's the standard to which the Frogs are held. It's also the coach's way of tempering any complacency now.

But, pardon them if there is some jubilation after this regular season. Carle Place went 10-2, earning the No. 1 seed in the Nassau Class C playoffs and, with it, an automatic bid to the county final on Nov. 3.

Perhaps more impressive: their seven-game win streak, which included a 3-2 comeback over Massapequa, the four-time defending county Class A champs. Perhaps more pertinent: The Frogs beat Oyster Bay and Friends Academy, one of which they'll face in the final. The Baymen upset them in the semifinal last year and Friends, with eight consecutive championships, is the reason Carle Place has been the frequent bridesmaid. The Frogs swept them in the regular season.

"It's an exciting season and what's most rewarding is that everyone has played their part," said Lydia Rice, a star goalie drawing major college interest. "We've all carried this team."

As exciting for the coach is that most of the Frogs' core is underclassmen and they have only two seniors. The captains, McGuinness and Rice, are juniors. Leading scorers Sophia Urrutia (18 points) and Elissa Frein (17) are sophomores. Six freshmen play key roles, including midfielder Samantha Reed and center-back Lauren Nagy.

Rebuilding takes time, Carol Nesdill said, particularly in a school whose enrollment typically hovers around 400. Nesdill's LIFHA junior league, in its 10th year, serves as a feeder system, indoctrinating kids as early as fourth grade. This season could be the fruition of that.

These players are appreciative of the past but, presently, are focused only on the future.

"I think we've got a bright future, and this could be special," McGuinness said. "One day, maybe we'll be one of those teams the kids hear about."

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