Young core leads Panthers after Final Four appearance

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HOOSICK, N.Y. — After going 19-1 and making a New York state Final Four appearance last season in Class C, the Hoosick Falls field hockey team has a pair of freshmen leading the charge on offense.

In many cases, having such young players in high-pressure positions could make for a long year as they mature.

But for as good as the Panthers have been in the past decade-plus, it's not a rebuild — it's a reload.

"We have a very young group, we're still trying to figure out positions and what combinations work," said Hoosick coach Denise Campbell, who is in her 22nd season at the helm. "The older players are taking a lot on. They're trying not to do too much so the younger ones don't depend on it. They are trying to find a middle ground."

The top two goal scorers are Catherine Kennedy and Emma McCart, each only in ninth grade. Both played last year, but will have even more on their shoulders this season to put goals on the board.

"Watching our scrimmages, I didn't know if we were going to score a lot of goals," said Campbell, whose team faced a plethora of large schools including Columbia, Saratoga and Queensbury in those exhibitions. "We didn't move the ball well and it makes you nervous coming into the season."

Campbell also has a pair of eighth graders on the varsity in Mackenna Roberson and Gwyn Vincent. Roberson got off to a good start in the team's opener this week, scoring her first varsity goal in a win over Greenwich.

"It can be intimidating against older players, but they've handled it well," Campbell said. "The communication is great with the girls and it helps them feel a lot more comfortable."

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Vincent started in the opener on defense, a tall task for a defensive-oriented coach like Campbell.

"I need to have confidence in them when I put them back there," Campbell said. "I envisioned her back there earlier in the year, but I wasn't sure if she could handle it. But she's a multi-sport athlete, she has a great sense of positioning and a desire to not get beat."

Campbell has three seniors as well in Katie Weeden, Eva Helft and Zoe Gress.

Gress is a four-year starter in the goal, but will split time with junior Aleah Stowell.

"Aleah's still figuring it out and Zoe has been a great mentor, so it's progressing," Campbell said. "Katie is leading on the defense and adjusting to both goalies."

Campbell only has 13 on varsity, a low number for the Panthers.

"It's happening everywhere. Field hockey is a hard sport, it's demanding and you have to really love it," Campbell said. "You try to expose the sport at an early age and that's really helped. As an elementary [gym] teacher, you hope to inspire them to give [the sport] a try."

Roster: Ayla Fauler, Madelyn Kasulinous, Gwyn Vincent, Macy Lindsey, Eva Helft, Lyric Kriner, Aiyana Baker, Catherine Kennedy, Emma McCart, Mackenna Roberson, Katie Weeden, Zoe Gress, Aleah Stowell


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