“We were the only Class B school, so we automatically won our section,” Curnan said. “We declined to go. We felt, as a team, we didn’t deserve to go in when we wouldn’t have made it in our section if we had other Class B teams.”
There are countless ways for a New York public high school team to find itself in the heat of the postseason, though the best chance of success follows a path of hard work and winning play. This is the route Curnan hopes his team will travel this season, and he’s got them working hard to make it happen.
“I think now that this is my second year, the girls know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from the girls,” he said, noting that this season’s early preparation has included time in the high school weight room. “It’s only going to make the girls stronger and faster. A lot of girls’ programs do not have the weight room going in. Girls might not be familiar with the free weights, and we’re trying to get them going.”
The 20-player Sawyer roster boasts seven seniors and seven juniors, with six sophomores and freshmen rounding out the team. Curnan said those players in the lower grades are there on merit.
“We have some girls that have really stepped up, like (freshmen) Jen Suttmeier, Ashley Werner and KellyRose Yaeger,” Curnan said. “Their catching and throwing ability has really caught up, and if I kept them at the JV level, they wouldn’t have gotten better. Most of them are going to start or play significant minutes.”
Curnan is in his second year at Saugerties, though he coached Pine Bush’s girls’ varsity program for one year after helming the Kingston High JV girls’ team for five years. So while he’s still new to Saugerties, he’s got plenty of coaching experience. That experience has put him in a unique position to know when good things are about to happen.
“I definitely think we’re going to be improving from last year,” Curnan said. “Our catching and throwing abilities are much further along than last year. Also, we don’t have a lot of clique-iness. They’re very together and cohesive.”
Nicole Buono, a junior defensive winger in her third year on the varsity club, has noticed the difference, too.
“This season, we’re coming out with a totally different attitude than last year,” she said. “It’s a new year and we came out with a lot of girls new to the varsity team. It has definitely been a learning year so far but from preseason our team is looking like we could really do well as long as we keep focused and keep our heads in the game.”
The preseason was meant to have ended a week ago, but cancellations both weather-related and otherwise have left the Sawyers all wound up with nowhere to go. A scrimmage at Dietz Stadium in Kingston last week was their first opportunity to test their mettle against other teams.
“During our preseason, our team worked hard and put forth a lot of effort to bring in some wins for when our season starts,” said Kimberly Baldelli, a senior team captain in her fourth and final year of varsity play.
Buono said she thought the team had a good combination of experience, enthusiasm and talent, and success will be a matter of ensuring the pieces come together during competition.
“I think this season it seems that we just lack experience the field, but we make up for it with athletic ability,” she said. “We also do have a lot of skilled players on our team and we’re still learning how to work and gel together. As long as we can work as one unit we’ll be coming out of this season with wins.”
Giana Barese, a senior with four years of varsity experience, said she’s been pleased with how quickly the team seems to be coming together.
“During preseason I felt we looked good,” she said. “I wasn’t too sure of how well we could all play together, but our team is pretty good with accurate passes and going in for goals with hard shots. We do need a bit work on ground ball pickups.”
Alexandra Robyck, another senior in her fourth year on the varsity club, believes they’ll be able to work their way out of any issues that may arise.
“I think the team has shown more dedication and hard work than ever before,” she said. “We are really good at helping and listening to each other. We all are working to help everyone reach their potential. The fact that we all get along and are really close with each other shows on the field. We’re just like sisters.”
Among the teams the players are most looking forward to facing are Red Hook, Burke Catholic and Kingston, the latter a much larger school with a recent history marked by great success.
Hayley Spoljaric, a sophomore who plays attack wing, is on the varsity roster for the first time.
“I’m looking forward to every game,” she said. “We as a team would like to shut out every team and be up by 20 goals. We know it’s a hard achievement to make, but we feel if we try hard enough we can do it.”
Allie Rosner, a fellow sophomore in her first year on the varsity club, said the team has the talent up and down the roster and will be as successful as they allow themselves to be.
“We’re very motivated and we will all step up at some point,” she said. “We need to step on the field and know we got this.”
Buono said the team is further motivated by the simple fact that there very nearly wasn’t a team at all this year.
“It means a lot to be playing for Saugerties since we had the threat of no sports this year,” she said. “Knowing that the only reason we’re playing is because of such generous donations and so many parents working very hard, it makes us want to win that much more.”
The Sawyers’ first game of the season, a visit to Red Hook, was postponed because of rain. They played their first home game against Valley Central on Wednesday, April 6.