After winning a Class C title in 2017, the Rye Garnets come into the spring eager to defend their Section I crown. And with a talented crew of experienced players returning, it would seem the defending champs could be in for a repeat performance.
Last season, playing a tough non-conference schedule, the Garnets finished with a 10-10 record, but emerged as the cream of the Class C crop, topping Hendrick Hudson 11-6 in the section finals. Rye returns 11 players who either started or saw significant time during the Garnets’ title run, leading many to believe that the veteran squad is more than capable of doing it again.
Although Rye lost last year’s leading-scorer Amanda Hartzell to graduation, they still have another blue-chip offensive threat in Margaret Mitchell, a four-year varsity standout with more than 100 career goals. Head coach Dennis Hurlie expects Mitchell to command a lot of attention from opposing teams but believes that the senior will flourish nonetheless.
“I’m just expecting her to do more of what she does,” Hurlie said. “And she’s going to welcome that challenge because she puts so much time in.”
Mitchell will lead a deep, versatile attack that will also feature proven scorers like sophomores Leah Kenny and Paige Drago as Hurlie believes the offense has a chance to be a prolific one.
“We are very athletic,” he said. “And I think we are going to be very tough for defenses to stop.”
The Garnets own defensive unit will be anchored by junior Sara Degraw, who had a breakout campaign in 2017, and sophomore goalie Amelia Cunningham, who started all but one game last year. DeGraw will also serve as one of the team’s leaders on draw controls, while Cunningham should be even steadier in goal this spring.
“[Cunningham] made some big saves last year, she plays competitively for a club team and her confidence is pretty high right now,” Hurlie said of his netminder. “We’re hoping to see a bit of a jump in her passing… she’s coming along well.”
The Garnets will open the season on March 26 when they travel to Scarsdale to take on a talented Class A Raiders’ squad. Rye will face several tough non-league teams including Bronxville, Mamaroneck, Greenwich and North Shore, as Hurlie hopes to have his team prepared for the inevitable postseason push.
“It’s a competitive schedule and it’s going to get them ready for the playoffs,” the coach said. “We want to keep getting better each day, but we are always going to have those immediate goals, like winning the league and winning a section title.”