A year removed from capturing the Nassau Class A field hockey championship, Baldwin is navigating a difficult road in the county’s top conference with only a handful of starters back in the fold.
“It’s a learning process,” Lady Bruins coach Mike Hoover said. “It’s a real challenge to play against the top teams in the county every day. We’re just looking to get better every practice and every game.
“We’ve got talent,” he added. “We could’ve petitioned to be in Conference II, but in the long run it might be better for us to be where we’re at.”
Compromising Baldwin’s chances of getting in the win column so far through seven games is the absence of senior Daniella Specht, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime to beat Massapequa in last year’s county title game. The two-time All-County midfielder could return soon after missing all but the opener with a health issue. “She’s one of our captains and a player who does everything for us,” Hoover said. “She’s a playmaker on the offensive side and a great defender. She makes everyone around her better. It would be beyond huge to get her back.”
Specht is one of five returning starters. Senior Kiera Englehart, another captain, also returned in the midfield and Hoover said her defensive work is essential. “Kiera is always around the ball and the younger players look to her for leadership and stability,” the coach noted.
Junior Katie Kalamni has made big strides in the midfield, Hoover said, and brings an aggressive style while soaking up knowledge of the game. “She’s very athletic and starting to come into her own,” Hoover said.
Sophomore Alexa Stegmuller has impressed in the midfield as well. The coach noted she’s the team’s best stickhandler and is a big part of the program’s present and future.
The forward group is led by senior Alexis Holt, a returning starter who notched Baldwin’s first goal of 2017 in a 2-1 defeat at Locust Valley on Sept. 28. “She controls the ball well and initiates our transition,” Hoover said. “She has great instincts.”
Sophomores Dana Elcock and Diana Meere, as well as junior Deborah Aniston, represent lots of promise. “Next year we’re looking pretty good up front,” Hoover said.
In the back, senior goalie Kailey Brower is a returning starter and a leader on and off the field. She and senior defenders Liz Madison and Gabby Feeney are also captains. Brower is solid in all aspects between the pipes. Madison plays with fire and emotion, Hoover said, and Feeney has risen to the occasion many times already this season. Junior Jaelyn Evans also starts on defense.
Despite the regular-season results, the Lady Bruins are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs as a member of Conference I. Massapequa, which beat them 3-0 on Sept. 16, will be the No. 1 seed in Class A.
“Last year, we lost 5-0 to Massapequa in the regular season and came back to beat them in the championship game,” Hoover said. “We just have to keep working hard.”