By Gavin Menu
There’s a new field hockey coach in Sag Harbor, but it will be familiar faces leading the charge on the field as the Lady Whalers look to return to prominence behind a talented crew of returning players.
Junior forward Ana Sherwood had three goals and an assist to lead the Lady Whalers to a 5-0 opening win over Class C rival Babylon on Saturday. Cali Cafiero, another junior forward, had a goal and two assists and freshman Hollie Schleicher added a goal as the Lady Whalers controlled the action from the opening whistle.
Bethany Semlear, a former Lady Whaler herself who replaced Shannon Judge as head coach, said this week that her return to coaching in Sag Harbor has “been a dream come true.”
“It’s really exciting for me to come back,” said Semlear, who graduated from Pierson in 2007 before going on to play Division I field hockey at the University of Connecticut. “We have a super young team this year, so we’re looking forward to growing.”
What is certain is the team’s offensive attack, led by Sherwood, Cafiero, Schleicher, junior Allura Leggard and Claudia Patterson, a sophomore from Bridgehampton, will be tough to contain. For the most part, it was those players who led the way last season as well, when Pierson fell to Southampton in the Suffolk County Class C final. Sherwood and Leggard, in particular, played crucial roles in the program’s first-ever state championship run in 2013.
Defensively the team suffered a loss when Erica Selyukova, another central player on the state championship team, opted to play soccer for this, her senior year. Stepping up to lead the defense, therefore, is senior Kerrie Vila, who Semlear said is stepping nicely into the leadership role.
“She’s sees the field very well,” Semlear said about Vila, one of three seniors on the team along with Cassandra Spencer and Sheila Mackey.
Starting in goal at the moment is freshman Charlotte Johnson, who filled that role for Pierson last year as an eighth grader. The Lady Whalers have five freshmen on their varsity roster, with Caroline Grout, Paige Schaefer and Ava Lantiere joining Schleicher and Johnson in the line-up.
Sophomores Catherine Spolarich and Annabelle Schroeder round out the team’s youth-filled roster.
“It’s definitely been a growing experience,” Semlear said about the first few weeks of practice and the team’s opener against Babylon. “This group of girls has been to states, though, and this year that is the ultimate goal. We’re focusing on one game at a time and are not taking anything lightly.”
The Lady Whalers will host Rocky Point in their home opener Thursday, September 17, at 4 p.m., followed by another home game against Bayport/Blue Point on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Early season local bragging right will be on the line Monday at 4:30 p.m., when Pierson travels to play at Southampton, which has moved up to Class B for this season.