“I can tell you that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year and so far the team has exceeded any expectations I had for the season,” said Eaton.
The Tigers won their fourth straight Section IX title one week ago with a predictably dominant 2-0 win over Pine Bush that showcased their strengths on both ends of the field. Let the record show that Kingston is 13-2 overall with a perfect shutout record in league play. It’s that stingy defense, led by goalkeeper Brianna Hinchey, that’s given the team’s offense free reign to run roughshod all year long. The combination is why the team is red hot when it matters most, and why they’re not only on a streak of four straight league titles, but 15 out of the last 17. More importantly, it’s why the team’s sights have
been set on much more lofty goals than earlier in the year.
“At the beginning of the year our team’s goal was just to learn to see each other on the field,” said senior defender Marie Roser. “Now that we’ve gotten further that’s definitely changed. We don’t want the season to end until it has to end.”
Freshman Carly Canavan, who scored the team’s second goal against Pine Bush by perfectly directing a blocked shot past the goalie, was more to the point.
“Everyone expected Kingston to be a weaker team from the loss of our seniors last year, but now our goals have changed,” she said. “We’re hoping for states.”
To get to the state tournament, all the Tigers need to do is keep winning. They’ll start with a regional contest against Mamaroneck, who ousted Scarsdale last weekend at Manhattanville College. Eaton was in the stands, hoping to get an edge on the team they’ll face this Saturday, Nov. 13, at White Plains High.
“Frankly, I’m glad we’ll be playing Mamaroneck instead of Scarsdale,” she said. “Scarsdale was a scrappy team who I thought dominated most of the game. Still, every Kingston player will have to bring their best game on Saturday.”
Getting to where they are, even after the loss of 10 seniors including seven all-stars, takes a lot of hard work, dedication and absolute commitment to the concept of team first play. For the Tigers, that begins earlier than one might think. It’s November now, and the season is winding down. But for many of the players on the team, field hockey lasts all year long.
“Our season starts the third Monday in August,” said Eaton. “We usually have about three weeks of preseason to prepare for the competition part of our season.”
So far, so good. But the team is also kept sharp during the long, cold winter.
“I run open sessions for girls in grades 7-12 on Thursday evenings at Miller Middle School gym every week through January and February,” Eaton said. “We host our own indoor tournament at the end of January and usually have about 18 teams competing. During the summer months I run open sessions again at Dietz for girls in grades 7-12, on Wednesday evenings.”
It’s a lot of work, and it pays off. But the team’s success is also partly down to its collective personality, one which sees not only the merit of hard work and playing as a team, but also that all that stuff can be fun.
“What makes our team so successful is that our team bonds very well,” said Canavan, who is making the most out of her first year on the varsity squad. “We have great captains and dedicated coaches. We’re always willing to try hard and to learn something new, we work as a team and listen to all of our coaches. And the team has never fought, and whether it’s a hard practice or a rush to the diner after a victory, we always have fun and always smile.”
Roser agreed. “Our team is more like a family,” she said. “We all get along really well. When we get together there’s never a dull moment, and they can always put a smile on your face.”
Roser added that there’s a certain satisfaction in busting stereotypes that comes from field hockey. “The popularity of it at our school is not great,” she said. “People expect girls in skirts to be nice and kind, when in reality that uniform brings out competitiveness and aggression.”
Eaton said that’s all part of what she looks for in a varsity field hockey player, a process which takes very seriously the lessons learned at the lower levels of academic competition.
“I look for overall athleticism, stick skills and most important, a positive attitude and the athlete’s desire to be part of a team,” Eaton said. “Our modified and JV programs are extremely important because it is the only feeder program available for field hockey.”
And future Kingston field hockey players, even those too young to participate at the modified level, often see their fundamental work begin with the direction of the team’s current crop of players.
“I run a camp for young girls from grade 2-8, every August for one week,” Eaton said. “Last year we had 78 girls attend our camp. Our varsity and JV players are the coaches for the camp, and it’s a wonderful mentoring program which really helps to get young girls in the area interested in playing field hockey.”
Eaton said she and assistant coaches Rob Nelson and Fletcher Landesman have spent the past week primarily fine tuning and keeping the team focused on the next step of the postseason. “This week, we’re reviewing our positioning on the field as well as working on our passing skills,” she said. “At this point in the season, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is the time to make sure that we are mentally and physically ready for the challenge ahead.”
For the Tigers, the challenge this season began when they were counted out before they even took to the field.
“I think this team was so successful because everyone had their doubts about how good we were gonna be after losing so many seniors, it was a rebuilding year,” Rosen said. “That pushed us to want to prove everyone wrong and win and go as far as we possibly can.”