MAMARONECK, N.Y. – The Rye Neck varsity field hockey team was anticipating its regular-season finale with Byram Hills more than any other game.
The Panthers were on the verge of achieving something that the program had not had since 1998 – a league title. And when the final whistle blew, Rye Neck won its 12th game of the season and a league championship.
“We knew going into the game that if we beat Byram Hills we would clinch the league title,” said four-year varsity starter and captain Elena Hurlbut. “It felt really good.
“Nickole (Morgan) and I were looking at the field hockey banner on the wall in the gym and it sadi 1998. We wanted to have 2012 on it. It felt really good to win the league title.”
When Rye Neck won the league title in 1998, current Panther coach Beth Gulotta was a senior. Gulotta would also score the winning goal in the Class D state-title game.
Rye Neck finished with a12-3-1 record and earned the third seed in the Section 1 Class C field hockey championships. The Panthers are scheduled to play No. 6 North Salem on Nov. 7 in a quarterfinal.
In 2011, Rye Neck had an excellent season and returned to a championship game for the first time since 1998. Even though coach Niki Bolnik took a year off, the Panthers proved that last year was not an aberration.
“With our experience we had coming back this year, we were all excited to do as well as we did last year,” said Hurlbut, who moved from the field to goal this year. “We have a lot of different age groups/talented players on the team this year. We came together early on so well.”
Hurlbut said the team misses Bolnik, who was an assistant at Rye before coming to Rye Neck and resurrecting the program, and will look forward to her return next year. Gulotta has picked up where Bolnik left off.
“I have learned so much from coach Bolnik and coach [Amanda] Mahncke and now with coach Gulotta, it has been even more exciting because she has that Rye Neck blood in her,” Hurlbut said. “coach Bolnik breathed life into our program and brought it back to a high level and coach Gulotta has built on it.”