Player of the Year – Lakeland’s Gianna Bensaia:
Many high school coaches try to find ways to get maximum effort from their players.
Lakeland field hockey coach Sharon Sarsen doesn’t have that problem. In fact, getting her players to tone down their personal workouts takes precedence.
So which Hornet needed to make the biggest adjustment to her workouts?
That would be Gianna Bensaia, The Journal News Westchester/Putnam field hockey player of the year.
Bensaia heeded Sarsen’s advice to conserve energy and the plan paid huge dividends. The didn’t get worn down by the end of the season and it showed. The senior collected 15 goals and 18 assists — saving some of her best performances for the postseason —in helping the Hornets capture the fourth Class B state title of her varsity career.
Bensaia had a goal in the state final. She netted two goals and assisted on two others in the regional final and had another goal in the sectional final. She finished with eight goals and three assists in six postseason games.
It’s nearly impossible for Lakeland, which has won seven state titles, to rank its elite alumni as dozens of them have moved on to high-level college programs and select teams.
“In the most recent scheme of things, I knew that she was special from the time that she got to varsity as a ninth-grader,” Sarsen said. “She tried out and her skill set was awesome.”
Bensaia’s skills have been appraised by coaches outside of Section 1, including Duke assistant Jarred Martin.
“(Bensaia) has the ability to process things a lot quicker than other players,” Martin said. “You put that work ethic with that personality and brain, it’s going to equal great field hockey.”
Martin coached Bensaia during the United States U17 team’s four-game Canadian tour in April.
“(Bensaia) played defense for us and her intelligence is really good,” Martin said. “I would say her intensity is really strong also.”
The only blemishes on Bensaia’s 22-win senior season were a loss to Connecticut’s Darien and a few moments in the state semifinal where Sarsen felt her star midfield wasn’t distributing the ball enough.
“I had to tell her to move the ball,” Sarsen said. “But that’s why we succeeded, because we had so many people who did so many things.”
Lakeland pulled out a 1-0 win against a talented Maine-Endwell team before drubbing Pittsford Sutherland 6-0 in the state final.
“Everyone gets touches on the ball, that’s what is unique about us,” Bensaia said. “When teams tried to take me, or Gab (Celentano) or Kristen (Conroy) away, there were always other options.”
Bensaia will join 2010 Lakeland grad Megan Bozek next season on the America East-member Wildcats, coached by Robin Balducci.
“(Balducci) is familiar with me and I’m familiar with her,” Sarsen said. “She loves having my kids and I love having them there.”
Bensaia has played a huge part of protecting the legacy of a team that has not lost to a Section 1 opponent since 2008.
“Part of the reason for why we are so humble is that we put so much work in that we expect the outcome,” Bensaia said. “Obviously, we’re happy with the outcome, but why shouldn’t we be?”
Gab Celentano, Jr., Lakeland: Receiving usable passes in traffic from her talented midfield helped the speedy Celentano pour in 15 goals and 29 assists.
Hannah Fitzgerald, Sr., Mamaroneck: On a Tigers squad that fell in the Section 1 Class A final, the Union-bound Fitzgerald notched 15 goals and 21 assists.
Scarlet Sulliman, Sr., Rye: Sulliman and teammate Alex Bennett were a talented duo on attack for the Garnets. Sulliman had 10 goals and six assists and will play lacrosse at Fairfield next season.
Brooke Bonfiglio, Sr., Bronxville: The Class C Broncos challenged tough schools from Class A and B because of a precise attack that started with Bonfiglio. She had eight goals and 12 assists and will play at Brown next year.
Erin McCrudden, Sr., Putnam Valley: The Louisville-bound senior was a bright spot on a Putnam Valley squad that struggled this season.
Cassie Schuttrumpf, Sr., Carmel: Since the Rams were eliminated from the postseason for playing too many games, much of Section 1 did not see the 13-win Rams play. Schuttrmpf had seven goals and nine assists.
Rebecca Bard, Sr., Lakeland: The Columbia-bound Bard had six goals and five assists to lead a rock solid Hornets defensive unit.
Alex Bennett, Jr., Rye: Bennett displayed a laser-like shot from direct hits off corners that helped her rack up 12 goals and eight assists.
Kayla Robinson, Sr., Mamaroneck: Robinson covered a lot of ground in Coach John Savage’s system and tallied 16 goals and 12 assists.
Keely Connors, So., Fox Lane: The Foxes program may not carry the same weight as some of the Section 1 powers, but Connors was tested heavily and flat out performed. The Foxes tied Harrison, Ossining and Rye and lost a 1-0 Class A quarterfinal to Mamaroneck in which Connors stopped 11 shots.
Coach of the Year
Sharon Sarsen, Lakeland: Season after season, Sarsen’s team continues to feed elite college programs with superbly talented players while managing not to skip a beat. The Hornets captured their fourth consecutive Class B state title and seventh overall this season and have not lost to a Section 1 opponent since 2008.
Michelle LoGiudice, Sr., Harrison
Caroline Knapp, Jr., Scarsdale
Gretchen Richter, Jr., Bronxville
Rachel Brissette, Sr., Mamaroneck
Dana Bozek, Fr., Lakeland
Kristen Conroy, Sr., Lakeland
Kaitlyn Gotte, Sr., Harrison
Felicia Costanzo, Jr., Lakeland
Samantha Karner, Sr., Mahopac
Meredith Tibbals, Jr., Rye
Maired Hourihan, Sr., Lakeland
Olivia Barnard, Jr., North Salem; Michelle DeLeo, Jr., Harrison; Sydney Malsch, Jr., Scarsdale; Molly Malone, Sr., Ossining; Abby Murdock, Sr., Lakeland; Nickole Morgan, Sr., Rye Neck; Ciara Morley, Sr., Irvington; Emma Schurr, Jr., Somers; Julia Serafin, Sr., Pelham; Liza Stephanz, Sr., Mamaroneck; Kristen Webb, Sr., Carmel; Bailey Wood, Sr., Bronxville.