Wednesday, 05 December 2012 11:42
It was a season that started out as “not meant to be,” but ended with gritty and heartfelt wins at the Long Island championship and regionals – and ultimately a historic return to the state championship.
“These girls never gave up and never stopped believing,” said Coach Gail Baker, last year’s Coach of the Year. “We had a lot of obstacles, including low numbers for both the JV and varsity, but we were still able to make it to the state semifinals and compete against our co-champion from last year, Hoosick Falls.”
A number of early season injuries challenged this new blend of younger players and remaining seniors. Required to field 11, the Quakers battled through most of their season with only 14 players. Coach Baker credits the team’s tenaciousness to the leadership that the team’s older players exhibited. “It was much more challenging to keep the girls positive this year, but this core group of veterans never stopped believing,” said Coach Baker. “They not only showed the younger girls how you are supposed to work on the field, but also how to carry yourself.”
A pivotal turning point came in FA’s game against rival Cold Spring Harbor, who they played on their home field. “I remember the feeling – it was almost like a championship game,” said Baker. “There were so many people on the sidelines and after we beat them, we pushed ourselves into first in our division. It made us feel like we could challenge the other teams and that we had a real shot at this.”
Friends went on to beat Port Jefferson, 3-2 in the Long Island Championship and then S.S. Seward in the regional game. “That Regional match was an outstanding game,” said Baker. “Even though the wind was against us during the first half, we held their best player scoreless. We knew where each other were.” Scoreless after the first half, FA rallied for a 2-0 final score, exhilarated by the reality that the 2011 reigning state champions were heading back to defend their title. Unfortunately, crucial injuries prevented the Quakers from advancing to the final round and capturing a second state championship.
For Coach Baker, this 2012 team represents the end of an era. “I have so many memories of this team,” she said. “These girls have played with a lot of emotion and I have a very special bond with them. Our younger players really grew and a lot of them were put into positions that they thought they weren’t really ready for. But they listened to their coaches and improved. The older girls on this team have really set the standards … the highest in my 21 years. They brought teamsmanship and heart to this program – and they were the role models for this team and will be missed.”