Carle Place field hockey team tries to begin new era of championship 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) (Credit: James Escher)

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, assistant coach Tricia Nesdill, was a member of the program's last county championship squad in 2005 and a recent inductee into the school's athletic Hall of Fame. And a few of the girls hear tales of glory from their mothers who played on teams in the 1980s. As for 2013?


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"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 titles are the standard to which the Frogs are held. It's also the coach's way of tempering complacency.

But, pardon them if there is some jubilation after this regular season. Carle Place finished 10-2 to earn the No. 1 seed in the Nassau Class C playoffs and a rematch with defending champion Friends Academy in the final at 2 p.m. Sunday.

And the Frogs' current seven-game winning streak includes a 3-2 comeback victory over Massapequa, the four-time defending county Class A champs, and two wins over Friends during 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 had a part in carrying this team."

More good news 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, as is midfielder Kailee Pagnotta. Six freshmen play key roles, including Samantha Reed and center-back Lauren Nagy.

Rebuilding takes time, Carol Nesdill said, particularly in a school in which total enrollment typically hovers about 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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