The state of Suki Sandhu’s Greeley Field Hockey program is such that a 10-1 regular season with a 70-2 scoring margin this season feels like a mild success for the Quakers.
Okay, perhaps that’s a bit extreme. In many of the Quaker’s games this season, it’s been a rarity when the opponent crosses midfield, let alone gets to the second level of the Quaker defense and puts a shot on goal. It’s been complete and utter dominance. But with 16 seniors and a generational talent in Lily Schoonmaker graduating from the program, there are still so many questions to be answered. Much of it has to do with the COVID-altered postseason format, which robs the team of the opportunity to compete for a state title after being tantalizingly close a season ago. And it's because of this harsh reality of the postseason format why Greeley’s defeat against perennial powerhouse Lakeland will sting in the minds of the Quakers, no matter how dramatically Greeley mauls their final opponents.
Lakeland, having lost four all-state seniors from last year's team and its best defensive player Kristen O'Shea to injury, was as beatable as they’ve been in a decade. Lakeland had not lost a Section One game since 2008, and coach Sharon Sarsen has amassed a stunning 659-73-40 record since 1982. For both Greeley and Lakeland, the lack of State Championships in 2020, combined with facing vastly inferior opponents all season, made the chance to play another elite team even more meaningful.
The 2-1 loss to Lakeland was both reaffirming and crushing for the Quakers. Greeley not only proved they could play competitively with Lakeland, they showed they were likely the superior team. Between Greeley’s second-half dominance both in possession and corners, and Schoonmaker’s near-miss over the crossbar in the late second half, Greeley was this close to pulling off a statement win. "The fact is we kind of stole it from them," Lakeland Head Coach Sardsen told Lohud.com following the game.
Just three days after Greeley’s razor-thin loss, Lakeland’s 12 year Section One streak was snapped by Mammaraneck, another powerhouse Greeley defeated 1-0 to win last year’s Section One Title. But due to the limitations of the COVID-adjusted schedule, Greeley won’t play Mamaroneck this season.
And as Greeley’s season comes to a close, and the team graduates its 16 seniors - 10 of whom are starters - there is a lot to be proud of. That the bar is set this high for Greeley, a once middling program searching for a pathway to success, is a testament to the immense work each player and coach has poured into the game. Narrowly losing to a near-invincible powerhouse and dominating every other team on the schedule is still a massive achievement, even for a team that was a runner up in the state a season ago.
It will be fascinating to see Greeley Field Hockey evolve in the coming years, as new players are given bigger roles after a magical two year run with much of the same nucleus. But there may never be another stretch quite like this one.