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Vikings leading the way

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Nichols School

Field hockey is growing in popularity in the Western New York area, where more schools are adding the program over the past couple of seasons.

The one school that has been leading the way as one of the best team in WNY is located in downtown Buffalo at Nichols School. Nichols has been one of the best teams in WNY over the years, and they are continuing their dominance this year with a 7-0 record.

It hasn’t been easy for Nichols, in 2017 (1-12-1) and 2018 (2-9) the Viking were just learning how to win. They were taking their lumps on the field, but getting the much needed experience was about to pay.

“In 2017 we were 1-12-1 and in 2018 2-9. In 2019 we had a strong group of underclass players and sophomore twins who came to Nichols from NJ. They started the turn around with their hard work and dedication,” stated Beth Stone. “With this group, we also started to draw more ice hockey players again back into the program and we were able to encourage incoming ice hockey players to join the field hockey team. We graduated a strong group of seniors in 2020 but were fortunate to get a great group of freshmen to replace them. We have only one senior Julia Peters, this year and a very strong group of underclass players that love to compete and work on their skill year-round.”

The group is young, but dedicated. With only senior on the team, Julia Peters, the team is set up for long team success. Five juniors are showing the much needed leadership to this young group.

They are showing the sophomores and freshmen how to play at the varsity level, which is important if they want to keep this train rolling.

“With only one senior the future is bright for Nichols FH. Majority of our players are three sport high school athletes. We have five junior starters and five sophomore starters. Our front line of Ella Murphy, Molly DiGiulio, Kiersten Smith and Seina Spadone is off to a very strong start with nine goals in just three games. While our defensive unit has only given up two goals,” stated Stone. Our midfield of Bailey MacKellar, Callista Printz and Molly Duffett work incredibly well with our backs Brynn Bacak, Julia Peters, and Kylie Nolan In goal we have two goalies that also play ice hockey Ava Varecka and Ilsa Neumann. Both very athletic and have made some big saves early on. Ellery Jaworowicz, Clare Greeley and Paige Pilote add great depth and speed to our squad. Paige is a player that can play anywhere and excels. It is very rare but majority of these players are looking to play college field hockey, college ice hockey or softball. We had two last week commit to play D1 ice hockey and our sophomore class all looking to play next level in ice hockey or field hockey.”

This team is very talented, and just not on the field hockey turf. A lot of these young ladies play three sports, mostly hockey. This team has formed a great bond of the ice that has carried to the field.

The staff has worked closely with the hockey staff to encourage the girls to come out for multiple sports. There are two Division I hockey commits playing on the field hockey team. Kiersten Smith is a Division I field hockey commit to Brown. That just shows the type of talent that the coaching staff is able to get.

“By working closely with the ice hockey coaches, we have been able to encourage our Nichols ice hockey players to play field hockey as well. We work diligently to try to limit the number of conflicts between the two sports- planning for field hockey weekends and not scheduling on the weekends that are the big ice hockey weekends. It’s a great setup where these athletes can play multi sports and compete at a high level in both,” explained Stone. “We were lucky to have a few players who played both and they have encouraged each other to join as well. Their ice hockey skills translate incredibly well to field hockey. They have great game sense, spacial awareness, and play so unselfishly. They are always looking to move the ball and they know where their teammates are. We presently have 14 ice hockey players who play field hockey. It’s a group of driven athletes that want to compete and make each other better. We have been very fortunate that many of them have played year-round field hockey with Coach Murphy and Williamsville Stamped,e which has really increased our skill level and game sense.”

If there is one thing that Nichols doesn’t do, is they don’t shy away form competition. The Vikings will go out and play anyone in the non-league. They even just came back from the prestigious Max Field Hockey National High School tournament this past weekend.

Being able to play some of the best teams in the country was a good way for Nichols to see how they matched up. It was also a good team boning trip.

“The tournament was Sept. 23 through 25 and were very excited to play other outstanding teams from around the country. We were excited to see how we matched up with other teams. We will travelled and play three games against Ridge from NJ, Tabb School from VA, and Myers Park from NC. Another intangible is the team bonding that occurs on trips like this. We become closer off the field and that translates to success on the field,” stated Stone. “Our goal is to play the most competitive schedule we can, so we try to schedule the best teams in WNY. That’s how we get better, playing the best. We are fortunate this year to include Pittsford Sutherland and Pittsford Mendon. We compete in an intense Canadian league, so playing tough opponents locally really helps us down the stretch in the Canadian playoffs. Add that to the teams we play in Buffalo, we are excited to have a very competitive schedule. Our players love to compete and challenge themselves against the best.”

One of the players leading the way for the Vikings is Kiersten Smith. The Brown commit pushes herself to the best on and off the field, and it rubs off on the rest of players. Smith is someone that can see the field and make the plays that are needed to me made.

She is also a leader on the field as well. The rest of the players look up to her for her leadership and commitment.

“Kiersten pushes herself to be the best she can be, and as she does that, she elevates the level of play of her teammates. She understands the game and sees the field so well. She is a catalyst on the field and pushes her teammates to play their best,” stated Stone. “She sets the pace for practices and her strong work ethic makes her a leader with her peers. She leads by example and never asks more from her teammates than she asks of herself. She excels at a high level in ice hockey and her skill in field hockey has taken off. Cannot wait to see her successes play for Brown University.”

Nichols School record since 2007

Fall 2007 - Christy Sapone - 17-4-1 overall, 6-1-1 CISAA Leigh Mikulka

Fall 2008 - Beth Stone 15-4, Donna Notto

Fall 2009 - Beth Stone 12-2, Danielle Printz

Fall 2010 - Beth Stone 16-1-2 overall, 8-1-2 CISAA, Danielle Printz

Fall 2011 - Beth Stone 11-3-2, Claudia O’Keefe

Fall 2012 - Beth Stone 6-8-2 Overall, 5-6-2 CISAA, Claudia O’Keefe

Fall 2013 - Beth Stone 7-8-2 Overall, 4-4-1 CISAA, Claudia O’Keefe

Fall 2014 - Beth Stone 10-5 Overall, 6-3 CISAA, Claudia O’Keefe

Fall 2015 - Beth Stone 6-6-3 Overall, 1-2-3 CISAA, Claudia O’Keefe

Fall 2016 - Beth Stone 5-11-1 Overall, 4-3 CISAA, Claudia O’Keefe

Fall 2017 - Beth Stone 1-12-1, Claudia O’Keefe

Fall 2018 - Beth Stone 2-9-1 Overall, 1-6 CISAA, Julioa DiTonda, Emily Janiga

Fall 2019 - Beth Stone10-4-1 Overall, 4-2 CISAA, Ashley Simula

Fall 2020 - Beth Stone 7-1-1, Ashley Simula

Fall 2021 - Beth Stone10-1-1 Overall, 1-1 CISAA, Julie Murphy

Nichols overall - 135-79-14, CISAA - 40-28-9

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