CORTLANDT MANOR, N.Y. Senior Dawn Bruzzese could not have asked for anything better in the first week of practice for the Walter Panas varsity field hockey team.
The Panthers persevered through double sessions for five days and concluded Friday, moving ahead of schedule.
We worked hard through double sessions all week, adjusting to it very well, and I know we improved each day, from our stick skills to our conditioning, said Bruzzese, in her fourth year on varsity.
Panas will look to continue building under the guidance of second-year coach Rebecca DiSisto, who was a valuable defensive player on two Lakeland field hockey Class A state-title teams (2003 and 06).
Bruzzese said DiSisto brought instant credibility to the Panas program last year, based on her Lakeland success and her ability to relate to the players. As a result, Bruzzese said, the team came into camp knowing what to expect and ready to work.
Panas qualified for the Section 1 Championships last year but lost to Pearl River, 1-0, in the October snowstorm. Qualifying for sectionals last year was great, but Panas wants more.
We feel we have been working harder than we did last year and weve already improved, Bruzzese said. We want to get even further in sectionals than we did last year.
Bruzzese, the starting goalie, is one of 11 returning veterans and one of four captains, along with classmates Meaghan Cellio, Amanda Beck and Casey Walsh. This quartet is joined by fellow seniors Bianca Caggiano, Amanda Avery, Liliana Cruz and Megan Moreno. The returning juniors include Alexis Rosa, Siobhan Lenihan and Alexa Freidman.
This veteran corps already has a bond that developed with the team playing in a winter league and, recently, the Hudson Valley Summer Field Hockey League.
DiSisto, a 2011 Springfield College graduate and a teacher at Lakeland, is quite happy with her team through one week.
What I enjoy most about this team is that they have really come to play and their commitment to the sport has grown, DiSisto said. The girls are showing such enthusiasm and I really enjoy teaching them. Each of them are so willing to learn and help one another so we can grow as a program.
Panas begins play Thursday, Sept. 6, hosting Yorktown, and goes to Putnam Valley on Saturday.
We are all dedicated and everyone is pushing each other to get us ready for the season, Bruzzese said. Were building this program up and were hoping to continue that progress this year.