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SportsHigh SchoolField Hockey

Eastport-South Manor ready for playoff run

Sawyer Kessler can only speak for how the Eastport-South Manor field hockey team is run, but the junior imagines it's something similar to Sachem East.

That's because the teams share a unique bond, she said.

ESM coach Jenna Rickert was an assistant coach and former player for Tina Moon at Sachem East before leaving to start her own program in 2012 as a middle school team.

Success followed her.

ESM went 10-4 this season, their first on varsity, and host Riverhead on Saturday in the first round of the Suffolk Class A playoffs.

"We knew from the start we were going to be special," said Kessler, a midfielder who plays for Moon year-round with the Strong Island travel field hockey team. "We were undefeated since we started junior varsity [two seasons ago]. We knew we could go far."

Rickert, part of the coaching staff for Sachem East's state title in 2011, was just as certain.

She said Moon taught her to set high expectations, but her main goal was to see progress from her players as they made the jump to varsity.

"I tell them every game is important and I never want them to be satisfied," Rickert said. "My expectation is nothing is going to be handed to you. You can't assume you're going to come out with a win. I want them to play hard."

The Sharks have come a long way, Rickert said, thinking back to when she recruited some junior varsity lacrosse players to the inaugural field hockey team in 2012.

Kessler said she was one of the first to join up and she persuaded her friends from lacrosse and a deck hockey league at Rapid Fire in Manorville to follow suit.

"Lacrosse and field hockey, they're pretty much the same," said Kasey Choma, a freshman forward who came to field hockey from lacrosse in seventh grade and led the team in scoring during the regular season with 15 points. "You're always running up and down the field and looking for the next pass. I'm new to the sport, so my stick skills aren't the best, but I hustle up and down the field. I just shoot."

Choma said she knew her team had potential after beating Sachem East in a preseason game. She's dreaming big heading into the playoffs.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, we could go to counties, we could go to states,' " Choma said. "I feel like everyone always forgets about us because we're new, but we're here to stay."

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