For a second straight season, Clarke has won each of its first four field hockey games.
Now the question coach Brittany Dougher has for the Rams is: “can we sustain it?”
Last year, they went winless in their last five games including a 3-1 defeat to North Shore in the first round of the playoffs to finish below .500 overall with a 6-7-1 mark.
“We’ve had a really good start again and there’s a strong vibe going,” Dougher said. “There’s a lot of positive energy that carried over from the offseason and some of the early wins have given us a huge confidence boost.”
Included in the win column so far are a couple of revenge games. Clarke took down North Shore, 3-0, Sept. 11, and longtime nemesis Locust Valley, 1-0, after a weeklong break.
“We usually split with North Shore but last year we had two losses and a tie against them, including the playoff loss,” Dougher said. “Locust Valley is historically a tough opponent. They beat us last year too so to go to their place and come away with a win is special.”
The Rams beat Locust Valley on a first-quarter goal off the stick of senior two-time All-County selection Sophia Papacostas, who delivered after taking a pass from sophomore Madison DeLeon. Senior goaltender Michelle Diaz and a defense led by seniors Britney Roller and Lauren Henning did the rest, fending off 15 corners.
“They put a lot of pressure on us,” Dougher said. “All those corners and we were able to shut them down and hold on. The girls didn’t get frustrated and played our game.”
Also contributing to the shutout were outside defenders Rebecca Palumbo, a junior, and Katerina Rivera, a freshman. Diaz, a third-year starter and one of the school’s top softball players, made 6 saves.
“She’s a true leader with natural athletic ability,” Dougher said of Diaz, who has four shutouts in as many games. “She has great hand-eye coordination and communicates well with the defense.”
Roller, a captain along with Papacostas, was Honorable Mention All-County in 2022. “Britney is fast, gritty, athletic and coachable,” Dougher said. “She’s the definition of a captain.”
Henning is working back from a knee injury and serves as the last line of defense in front of Diaz. “Lauren is our quarterback in the back,” said Dougher.
Senior Lina Resende, described by Dougher as the most versatile player she’s ever coached in seven years at Clarke, has also been a factor in the defense’s success. Resende also takes the offensive corners.
Papacostas is an elite scorer who led Nassau in goals in 2021. “She’s passionate about the sport and everyone looks up to her,” Dougher said. “She really makes things happen.”
Senior Danielle Sison is a central attacker and off to a great start with goals in wins over New Hyde Park and North Shore. Junior midfielder Sophia Sforza also scored in both games, while DeLeon recorded a hat trick against New Hyde Park.
“We have a lot of veteran players and beating Locust Valley sets us up for a big season,” Dougher said.