Chemistry fuels East Meadow's success


It’s rare that a coach ever admits their doubts, but Courtney Castle had several for the East Meadow field hockey team ahead of this season, fully expecting the Jets to atrophy after graduating 13 off last fall’s roster.

Now, looking back at the 9-3 campaign her team compiled, Castle couldn’t be happier.

“Coming into the season, I thought it was going to be more of a transition year with ups and downs,” Castle said. “But right off the bat, I saw that we had something special even though we did lose 13 seniors. There's a chemistry between the players. When you're winning and scoring goals, you're feeling good.”

Sophomore Gianna Ventura handled much of that scoring, as her 12 goals were tops across Nassau County. Along with Kayla Lederer and Lila Kies, the trio piloted the Jets.

“They work as a unit to create most of the offensive pressure,” Castle said. “They have huge drives and great crosses and passes. They have great skills and work together.”

East Meadow’s greatest strength, though, is its defense. Team captain Gianna Celano and Sarah Gatto have held strong on the back end, as all nine of the Jets’ wins were of the shutout variety behind the goaltending tandem of Mackenzie Goebel and newcomer Dynasty Ramos.

“They have great skill in there,” Castle said. “They are really quick and agile. Our team is confident in their abilities, whoever is in there.”

Bringing the whole team together cohesively has been the leadership of Celano. “She has great communication,” Castle said. “She's quick and aggressive, and she is very helpful and caring. She really does like whatever you ask. She's the one leading by example.”

In the middle of the season, the Jets hit turbulence through a two-game skid with losses to Seaford and Sewanhaka.

“We had a speed bump midseason there,” Castle said. “We couldn't put it together on offense. We had so many shots on goal and we just couldn’t connect. We had to go back to basics.”

Fighting through adversity wasn’t anything new to an East Meadow team that had faced it head-on from the outset of the season. Through it all, it’s been a combination of culture and collective chemistry that has helped them stay the course.

“They're just so positive and upbeat,” Castle said. “I saw that they were meshing on the field and also outside of field hockey. They have pasta parties and do fun stuff like that. I wasn't worried.

It's like a family.”

Prior to dropping its finale last Saturday against New Hyde Park, the Jets reeled off five straight victories capped by a 1-0 non-league win over a strong Oyster Bay squad 24 hours earier. Ventura notched the lone goal. Others wins during the streak came against Friends Academy, Great Neck South, Long Beach and Great Neck North. Senior Alanna Piccinone scored twice against GNN.

“I've been coaching at East Meadow High School for a long time,” Castle said. “We've created a community here.”