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Passion infuses Hampton Bays' field hockey team

Hampton Bays' Rebecca Harris chases after a loose

Hampton Bays' Rebecca Harris chases after a loose ball during the first half of a Suffolk Division III varsity field hockey game against host Babylon on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. Photo Credit: James Escher

Pizza and passion were the building blocks for Hampton Bays' field hockey team.

As the 2012 school year began, just six girls expressed interest in playing field hockey. A large senior class in 2011 had depleted the roster, and the uncertainty stemming from the hiring of a new coach left girls skeptical.

But Samantha Spehler, who was hired in late August, knew she had to assemble a team. She told the six girls she would throw a pizza party for them -- the caveat being they each needed to invite at least one friend.

That raised an interest in the game, as seven more girls flocked toward the free food. Suddenly, Hampton Bays had enough players to field a team.

"It was definitely worth the pizza," Spehler said before her team's 2-1 loss at Babylon on Thursday.

Wins have come infrequently for Hampton Bays (1-10), which competed at the JV level in Spehler's first season.

"Do you really need to know?" she responds when asked for her team's 2013 record.

But Spehler's girls have espoused their coach's goal-oriented philosophy -- no, not the goals that appear on the scoreboard.

"What matters is, the things we worked on in practice the day before -- did we implement those techniques, did we come out stronger than we did in the last game?" senior captain Sara Schabe said. "It all depends on how we went uphill."

Spehler has infused her players with a passion for the game. Her coaching mannerisms are anything but perfunctory.

A player clogs a lane on an attack, and Spehler pulls her over for personal instruction. Another gets hurt, and Spehler sits with her on the bench.

"She cares about the players," said DebbieSue Tlockowski, whose daughter Autumn is a senior on the team. "She treats them as individuals as well as a team. If they have issues, she spends time with them."

Schabe and senior co-captains Rebecca Harris and Isabella Quiros all agreed that the JV year helped the team foster confidence and unity. They've faced a new challenge this season, as the roster includes nine girls who had no field hockey experience as of early August.

But that's a sign that Spehler has the program headed in the right direction.

"She definitely changed this team a lot. It's sad because I'm going to miss her," said Quiros, who scored the Baymen's goal against Babylon. "When she came, this team was totally different. She brought this team together and made it family-like."

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