The Williamsville North field hockey team had a terrific season in 2015. The Spartans came the closest of any team in Western New York in the sport to winning a state championship, reaching the state semifinals with a 16-3-1 record.
When they look back on the season, that’s what they’ll try to remember – and not that the year ended just a couple of steps from their ultimate goal.
“I definitely can’t be upset with what happened,” Clare Ahern of Williamsville North said. “We played very well – not our best, but under the circumstances we played well. We progressed so much during the season. I can’t be mad at that. Everyone worked their hardest. It was great that we made it that far.”
There’s no shame in a loss to Mamaroneck, which went on to take its second straight state championship. One of the rewards of that fine season comes at this time of the year, when individuals are honored as the best in Section VI by a vote of a panel of area coaches.
The Spartans led the way in numbers on first team. Ahern was one of three players from Williamsville North to make the squad, which consisted of 14 players. The other two North players selected were Shannon Quinlan and Mary Crumlish.
Ahern is a senior who played midfield this season. She was on the New York State All-Tournament team, and had 18 goals and 11 assists this season. Ahern has been a captain of her team for three years and a Most Valuable Player four times. Now that run is at an end.
“It is sad,” she said. “I think the seniors set a good stage for next year and the girls coming up. I’m really happy with the last five years on varsity, and how things went.
Quinlan is one of those girls who is coming back for next season. The junior had 10 goals and 11 assists. Quinlan had a memorable shootout goal in a defeat of previously unbeaten Iroquois. Crumlish, a senior goalie, had an impressive nine shutouts on the season. She allowed 18 goals on 156 shots for a save percentage of .896.
The other sectional champion teams are well represented on the list of the area’s best players. Amherst, the Class B champion, contributed McKenna Rushford and Jenna Sobol. Akron, which took Class C honors, supplied Abigail Stone and Sarah Schultz.
Rushford was a major reason the Tigers won their seventh Section VI crown in 13 years. Last year’s Prep Talk Player of the Year came through with 16 goals and 26 assists in another dominating season.
Sobol had six goals and 20 assists as a midfielder in her fourth year of varsity field hockey. The junior has one more year to add to her totals.
Akron’s Stone was solid in the middle of the defense for the Tigers, while Schultz hit the 20-goal mark from her spot as a center forward.
They both said the highlight of their season was the win over Barker that ended that school’s seven-year reign on top of Class C in Western New York.
The all-star team for the season had a definite Williamsville flavor this season. Six of the 14 selections came from there. Williamsville South had Abby Ferenczy and Marnie Reidell, while Williamsville East contributed Leah Rogers.
Ferenczy contributed 18 goals and 17 assists as the Billies won their division with a 14-1-1 record. Her scoring totals led ECIC II teams. Reidell, a sophomore, has been a part of the varsity team since her eighth-grade season. Rogers has shown a large amount of improvement in her play, as she was second team All-ECIC last season.
Iroquois and Pioneer finished off the represented schools. Iroquois, which reached the Section VI finals, was led by Holly Stiller, a starter on center defense in her freshmen and sophomore years, and Abby D’Amato, who had 12 goals and 14 assists this season.
For Pioneer, Lauren Vacinek was the team’s most valuable player on defense in 2015, while Kelsey Chai was a skilled passer with 20 assists this season.
Rushford, Stone, Ahern and Ferenczy were the four repeaters from last year’s All-Western New York roster. This time around there are five juniors and three sophomores on the first team.
Ahern thinks the coaches got it right.
“I know a lot of them,” she said during a gathering of the area’s best. “I play club” field hockey “with the Whalers. They’re all pretty skilled. It’s nice to come together for this. I’m excited for everyone.”