The Tigers are ready to roar back.
The Northport field hockey team advanced to the program’s first county title game last season, but came up short, falling 3-1 to eventual Long Island champ Sachem East. It was a bittersweet feeling, but one senior Michaela Maniscalco said has helped drive the team this year as the Tigers look, not just to compete, but to capture that elusive championship.
“Losing last year is really motivating us to win this year,” said Maniscalco, who will split time between midfield and defense. “It’s the best feeling even when you make it there, but to win it, we all want to have that feeling.”
Northport has seven new starters, including goalie Hayley Hayden, who has played on the junior Olympic team. The senior is a fresh face to varsity, but coach Gina Walling said she’s confident in what Hayden can do.
“Northport breeds good goalies,” Walling said. “We’re pretty good in the goalie department, it’s just a matter of getting everyone to work together.”
That chemistry has been sparked by the return of Maniscalco and fellow senior Kate McLam, a starting forward who finished with seven goals and five assists last year.
“We’re a young team, but that’s not a bad thing,” McLam said. “We have so much potential and we’ve worked hard to get to this point.”
Both Maniscalco and McLam said they’re confident that Northport can make a title run, but they also know the road to the county final will be challenging.
After capturing the Suffolk and Long Island crowns, Sachem East fell, 2-1, to Williamsville North in OT of the Class A state semifinal. The Flaming Arrows graduated a handful of starters, but coach Tina Moon said the team has embraced its postseason expectations, led by Kristen Shanahan and Katie Allen.
Shanahan recorded 27 goals and 12 assists, the best on Long Island, in 2018, while Allen anchored a defense that recorded 12 shutouts.
“It’s exciting, they’re great kids and great players,” Moon said. “It’s the end game that matters more than anything, so we have to keep that mindset.”
Commack also looks to contend in Division I, with a core of experienced players, including five-year starters Ava Amato and Amy Pasquale. Smithtown East has its sights set on its first county title since 2006, sparked by Hannah Ackerman, while senior Kristin Quinn is hoping to lead Ward Melville to its second state title since 2017.
Miller Place has won three of the last four Suffolk Class B titles and Emily Stoessel will look to defend the crown after finishing with five goals and eight assists last year. The Panthers face some heavy competition in Division II, particularly from Rocky Point and Bayport-Blue Point.
In Class C, four-time defending champs Pierson-Bridgehampton has a few holes to fill, including in net after All-Long Island goalie Charlotte Johnson graduated, but are still primed for another title run.
For Northport, it’s all about hitting their stride as quickly as possible, building on history and ignoring anything except their own goals.
"I wouldn’t say there’s pressure to get back to that point,” senior Hayden said. “We feel like we have nothing to lose, basically. We’re just ready to after it and give it our all.”