SOMERS, N.Y. - Despite putting together the best field hockey season in program history under head coach Jaime Pryschlak in 2016, Somers is moving on with new head coach Marq Mellor.
“My approach is that I want to play against much stronger opponents,” said Mellor, who was a member of the 1996 U.S. men’s Olympic team. “Playing against some of those bigger (Class) A schools is going to give us exposure.”
Somers is set to match up with the section’s best in Rye, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck and Lakeland this season. It will quicken its style of play to do so.
“We play a very up-tempo game,” said Mellor, who has previous coaching experience at Mamaroneck and Bronxville. “We may not be the most skilled team, but we will certainly be one of the fittest teams and that’s not because we run track all day. It’s because we train on the field at game-tempo with high focus on muscle memory and repetition.”
A few players, including returning junior Rosalie Murphy, have played under Mellor during the offseason on a club team called Fairfield County United based in Greenwich, Conn.
“[Coach Mellor] is a lot more intense than we’re used to,” Murphy said. “He’s mentally tougher on us and holds us accountable for every single mistake we do and for critiquing each other. So it really builds us up as a team and helps us get comfortable with one another.”
The Tuskers, who fell to John Jay Cross-River in the section quarterfinal last season, return key pieces this year on both sides of the ball.
Senior midfielder Sheridan DeVito, a captain, is a large piece, but will have her hands full after Somers lost Katie Campbell, Taylor Turchick, and Marykate Mollaghan to graduation.
“It’s challenging and last year we had a lot of good girls who were serious about the program,” DeVito said of the coaching change. “Now we have Coach Marq who has helped us along the way and is teaching us from square one to build the program for years to come.”
Murphy will support this year’s midfield core along with an offensive threat in senior right midfielder Teagan Lucchese.
“One thing we are really focusing on is playing as a more unified team,” Murphy said. “A team who takes the sport really seriously. We are going to grow a lot as players because our coach is so experienced.”
With all of the experience comes a need for intense training, as the Tuskers have done much of that this summer. Somers had a strong summer league where it finished with a 6-3 record.
“We’re out here putting in the same work that the top teams like Lakeland, Bronxville and Mamaroneck do,” DeVito said. “It’s been doubles every day. It’s a lot harder. This morning we were here from 9:15 to 11:00 and then we come back 4:30 to 6. It’s also been more game-play than drills. Our top goal is to win the section finals.”
Sophomore forward Erin Clark and junior forward Caitlin Spor should provide depth to an offense that looks to replicate last season’s explosiveness.
“We’ll be a very good offensive team again,” DeVito said. “It’s been more natural this year and everyone is flowing together easily on the field although we are tough on each other. We have some younger girls trying to fill the defensive shoes too.”
Feistiness should definitely be a trait to expect out of this year’s bunch of Tuskers, while maintaining the ball is key.
“We’re going to win possession,” Mellor said. “That’s the name of the game. We’re going to play smart and share the ball around. Some teams hit the ball down the field, that’s not what we do. There will be much more strategy with short passes and movement off the ball.”
Junior Grace Farina and sophomore Haley Dineen are going to lead the defensive unit. Fellow sophomore Nicole Garrity takes over for the Pace-bound Jess Monaco.
A group of underclassmen who are pushing to reach the varsity squad are sophomore defender Jen Campbell, freshman forward Ryan Mellor and another freshman forward in Isabella Del Vecchio.
Somers opens up the year by hosting a four-team tournament Friday, Sept. 8. It will take on Pawling at 5:45 p.m. in the first round with the championship game and consolation contest the next day.