MAMARONECK, N.Y. - Nickole Morgan laughed when she recalled what a peer said to her during freshman year at Rye Neck.
Someone said to me, Youre not even going to win a game, Morgan said. Now, everyone looks to the field hockey team to win.
How the attitude toward the Rye Neck field hockey team has changed.
Since 2008, Rye Neck, under the guidance of coach Niki Bolnik, has progressively raised its level of play. And last year, the Panthers did something for the first time since 1998 - they played for a sectional title.
Rye Neck reached the 2011 Section 1 Class C final and, even though the Panthers lost to Bronxville, they re-established the pride and tradition that was Rye Neck field hockey.
Bolnik is taking a year off from coaching to be home with her son, so former Rye Neck great Beth Gulotta will coach the team, assisted by Mandy Mahncke. Gulotta scored the lone goal to give Rye Neck the 1998 New York State Class D championship.
Last year, our captains made everything so special, and getting to the finals was a great experience, said Morgan, one of three seniors, along with Elena Hurlbut and Athena Nathan. It also made everyone hungry this year.
Morgan said Rye Neck has been focused on returning to the sectional final since the 2011 season ended. It was a topic of conversation among the players the remainder of the school year.
The seniors know that in order for Rye Neck to play for the title, the trio must carry on what last years senior class did - make it special.
We are really talkative and supportive of the younger players, helping them out with everything, Morgan said. Our sophomores Nicole (Miller) and Brianna (Cefaloni) are helping us also and doing a great job.
Along with the drive to return to the final, Morgan said the team draws additional motivation from Gulotta.
Every day, one of us asks her what it was like to score the only goal in the state final, and she says us it was awesome, Morgan said.
Rye Neck will play Harrison in its season opener on Friday, Sept. 7. The Panthers return Monday and play at Pelham.
I love the girls on this team, Morgan said. We are a family and we are united in our goal.
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