The Citizen's sports department will soon announce its 2017 all-star selections and the player of the year. Here is a look back at past recipients of The Citizen's field hockey player of the year honor.
Field Hockey All-Stars: Jeslyn Files leads Weedsport to third consecutive section title
Jeslyn Files was determined to end the nearly two-decade drought.
A goal with 34 seconds remaining in regulation handed Weedsport a loss in the section finals when Files was a freshman in 2013. Files and the Warriors used the tough loss as motivation, and put in even more work heading into the next season.
Files, The Citizen’s field hockey player of the year, has now played a key role in leading the Weedsport to three consecutive Section III, Class D championships.
"We go from July until November," the Weedsport senior co-captain said. "We are working so hard and (the section title) is something you want to keep pushing for. Each time you step on the field, you're going out with a purpose. You work hard and it's nice to have the W at the end."
For Weedsport coach Theresa Leonardi, Files is a tough player mentally and physically, which is necessary, especially for a center midfielder who is in the middle of the action.
"Jeslyn has always been willing to hold her ground, play within the rules of sportsmanship and fair play, and give it everything she's got," Leonardi said. "That's really, really valuable and important to a team."
Files also served as a vocal leader for the Warriors, who also won three league titles and three Cayuga County championships in the last four years.
"Jeslyn was willing to call kids out who were not doing their part, and that's something that's really valuable to a coach because if it always comes from me, that gets hard for me and the kids," Leonardi said. "When they have some of their peers calling them out and asking them to step up, that has a big impact. She was able to do that in a way that got the message across but wasn't too intimidating or harsh."
On the field, Files piled up the points. She was second on the team in scoring with 12 goals and five assists.
Files recorded a program-best 11 assists last season, and finished with the team record for assists in a career (26).
"(Leonardi) always tells me to try to get a shot on pads," Files said. "Luckily, I have a pretty powerful drive, so if I find a corner, it has a good chance of going in. Over the years, I've learned more that if I'm open to just drive it. If someone can tip it, that's great — that's what we're supposed to do — but half the time I try to drive it in."
Leonardi has seen Files’ overall game continue to develop over her four years on the varsity team.
"Jeslyn as a freshman was a talented field hockey player, but she's a much more talented field hockey player now," Leonardi said. "Those years of experience and the skill development make a huge difference. She's always been a very talented kid, but she has much more tools in her toolkit now."
Although her field hockey career at Weedsport is over, Files is exploring her options to play in college.
"Looking back, the memories are going to last forever," Files said. "It was a great experience all four years. Over the years I've learned to love the sport even more, and it's a great feeling."
Field Hockey All-Stars: Randall caps record-breaking career by leading Weedsport to another section title
WEEDSPORT | After her record-setting junior season, Lexi Randall’s role changed.
The Weedsport senior garnered more attention from opposing defenses, but still found a way to put up points. Randall, The Citizen’s field hockey player of the year, finished with a program-best 50 career goals and moved up to third all-time with 19 assists, as she led the Warriors to their fifth-straight Cayuga County championship and second-straight Section III, Class D title this season.
“When you score 27 goals in a season, people are going to notice,” said Weedsport coach Theresa Leonardi. “But Lexi has always been the sort of player who has been willing to pass the ball as much as she is willing to shoot the ball.”
Randall set the program record for goals in a season (27) her junior season, and followed it up with 12 goals and seven assists this year. The senior co-captain was named the county tournament’s most valuable player for a second time, and earned first team all-league honors for the second consecutive season.
While the individual accolades are nice, Randall knows a lot of her success comes from the work of the people around her.
“It was a team effort,” Randall said. “It wasn’t just me. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates or the coaching staff.”
After falling to Morrisville-Eaton in the section finals in 2013, Weedsport were able to turn the tables for section championships the past two seasons. Despite graduating six key players from the 2014 team, Randall had confidence her team would repeat.
“I had faith in our team from the beginning,” Randall said. “We knew it would be a tough road, but that we would succeed.”
For Randall, the biggest development in her game has been her ability to dodge defenders.
“A couple years ago I would go 100 miles per hour and just smash into people,” Randall said. “I got better with dodging and going around girls.”
“Lexi has always had great speed, great determination and great hustle,” Leonardi said. “The key was being able to use those skills to put the ball in the net. Her typical plan in those days was to run as fast as her legs could possibly carry her and fly down the field in a straight line until a defender tackled her. Between her sophomore and junior year, she learned how to dodge and move with the ball and it made all the difference.”
Leonardi believes Randall’s progress can be a good example for her future players.
“She’s definitely going to be one of those players we hold up to others in years to come and say ‘This is how Lexi played,’” Leonardi said.
Field Hockey All-Stars: Randall sets records en route to Weedsport's section title
WEEDSPORT | It came down to natural athletic ability and a lot of hard work.
Weedsport junior Lexi Randall, The Citizen’s field hockey hockey player of the year, set a new mark with 27 goals in her junior season -- 10 better than her cousin Casey Longo, the previous record holder -- to lead the Warriors to their first Section III title since 1995.
For Randall, her success can be attributed to a little more confidence and a lot of stickwork.
“Coach (Kathy) Holden asked me at the start of the season to work on dodges,” Randall said. “This year at every practice, I tried my best to dodge my own players. In the game it paid off.”
“Lexi has worked really hard to improve her stick skills,” added Weedsport head coach Theresa Leonardi. “That’s allows her to make her dodges and makes it difficult to stop her when she’s on a breakaway.”
While she is focusing on team goals, Randall’s 2014 goals total alone put her within 11 of reaching the all-time record holder Allie Beardsley.
“I think there are a few more records up there that are going to be hers,” Leonardi said.
Randall’s success is hardly surprising to Leonardi. A willingness to crash the net and the ability to rush the ball up the field to create her own scoring chances made Randall a game-changer this season.
“Lexi has a real determination to be good all the time,” Leonardi said. “You get her around the goal, and look out. She’s going for it.”
As a team, Weedsport had a banner year. The Warriors beat top schools like Fayetteville-Manlius, Liverpool and East Syracuse-Minoa on the way to a 14-1-1 regular season record, and cruised into the postseason as the No. 1 seed.
Weedsport went down 2-1 to frequent postseason adversary Morrisville-Eaton in the second half of the Section III, Class D finals, but rallied for a 3-2 win after Randell netted the go-ahead goal with a little more than 12 minutes remaining.
“It was a great year for us,” Leonardi said. “We knew we had some strong kids coming back, but we also knew we lost a lot to graduation last year. I don’t think any of us were certain at the beginning of the year how good this team would be.”
For Randall, what stuck out was seeing the joy Leonardi took out of winning her first section title as a head coach. After nearly two decades of coming just short, Leonardi took great pride in receiving the envelope handed out to the section champions.
“Coach was very happy,” Randall said. “She carried the envelope around everywhere the next day. She still has it in her room. It’s a good feeling.”
On a personal level, Randall’s goals for her senior season are fairly simple. But she has set the bar pretty high.
“Usually I try and go above and beyond what I did the year before,” Randall said.
But like many of the Warriors, Randall is focused on the team accomplishments. With a section title on her resume, she wants to see Weedsport make it further into the postseason.
“Hopefully next year we go a little farther than we did this year,” Randall said.
Field and Ice: Port Byron/Union Springs field hockey goalie Amanda Lupo blends different styles
PORT BYRON | For Amanda Lupo, it all comes down to instinct.
Whether she’s stopping pucks on the ice or keeping the ball out of the net on the field hockey team, the Port Byron senior found a way to meld together the different styles to stonewall opponents. Lupo, The Citizen’s field hockey player of the year, used her unorthodox technique to backstop the Panthers to the Section III, Class C semifinals this season and earned herself a spot on the all-state field hockey team.
"As a goalie, you know your main purpose is to stop the ball. You know you have to do whatever it takes to stop the ball," Lupo said. "Sometimes ice hockey comes into a field hockey game."
Lupo, who has skated since she was two and played hockey since she was three, uses the popular butterfly style on the ice, where the netminder drops to their knees to cover up the bottom portion of the net. That innate motion clashed with the typical stand-up style that’s the norm with field hockey.
Still, Lupo’s anticipation, coordination and reaction time easily translates.
“At times it was challenging for her to remember to use field hockey moves and not ice hockey moves in the goal, and eventually she kind of created her own style that involved both kinds of saves,” said Port Byron/Union Springs coach Erica Grunder of her starter for the past three years. “I used to give her a hard time about it but after a few amazing saves this year, I stopped. We joke about it now.”
But Lupo’s importance to the Panthers reaches beyond stopping shots. The captain served as a leader of the defense, making sure each of the girls in front of her were picking up their assignments.
“As the goalie you are able to see the whole field, see which players need to be covered and who should be moving to certain spots on the field,” Grunder said. “Amanda led the team by letting everyone know where they needed to be if they were out of position or if there was a defender who needed to be guarded.”
"As a captain, I had more leadership responsibilities this year than I've ever had," Lupo said. "But as a goalie, I can see the entire field ... so I'm constantly talking to my team, telling them not only to do things, but to keep it up and good work."
Lupo, who spends her winters playing with the Skaneateles girls ice hockey team, is still weighing her college options, but hopes to continue playing ice hockey in college. Some field hockey moves might still sneak into her technique.
"Field hockey and ice hockey are two completely different sports," Lupo said. "But I somehow decided to merge both of them."
Passing it on: Chirco's varsity experience began early
Biz Chirco fondly remembers her first varsity experiences.
With her mother, Amy, as an assistant coach on the Weedsport field hockey team, the fifth-grader spent plenty of time around the varsity players. Four years before officially being added to the roster, Chirco sat in on team dinners, learned how to take penalty strokes and helped with drills.
“I was an obstacle in your obstacle courses,” the senior recalled to coach Theresa Leonardi. “I would slap them on the shins as they went by.”
One memory that remains in Chirco’s mind was tripping while going through a line of cheering girls before practice. Normally meant to get the girls pumped up before practice, Chirco’s grass-stained jeans drew the normal ire of a mother.
“The girls were like ‘Don’t worry about it coach Chirco, tough girls wear green,’” Biz Chirco said. “That became their motto for the season.”
Feeling the camaraderie and inspired by the passion the players put into the game first-hand, Chirco, The Citizen’s choice for field hockey player of the year, followed in the family footsteps. She joined the varsity team as soon as she had a chance and created many memories of her own.
“Biz lives, eats, sleeps and breathes field hockey,” Leonardi said. “She really does, and she’s always been like that.”
Although the senior wasn’t short on talent, Chirco didn’t always score the most goals, she wasn’t always the most coordinated and she certainly wasn’t the fastest.
“I was always the last one,” Chirco said. “I called myself the shepherd since I was always herding them in.”
Chirco, who is a first-team all-league and was a Section III All-Star, had something else.
“Right from the beginning, Biz had the passion,” Leonardi said. “She didn’t always has the skill, and sometimes she would run kids over with her enthusiasm to get the ball. Now she has the skill to play with anyone.”
The co-captain helped stabilize a team that was reeling after losing 10 seniors from the previous season.
“Biz was a great leader on and off the field,” Leonardi said. “She’s a great role model for others and really sets a standard as to how we do things in Weedsport, and how you need to step up. As a coach, that’s invaluable. You can preach certain things, but in the end, it’s the kids that play the game.”
There were plenty of highlights for the Warriors.
Weedsport started the season by winning the Cayuga County Championship against rival Port Byron on penalty strokes, kept it close against two-time defending state champion Cazenovia midway through the season and bested East Syracuse-Minoa near the end.
On senior day against Homer, Chirco finally notched her first and only goal of the season on a penalty stroke. The other Weedsport senior, Gabby LaForce, gave the Warriors a two-goal lead later in the game.
“We couldn’t have scripted that any better with each of our seniors scoring,” Leonardi said. “They were both really hard workers during the season.”
Weedsport continued to roll into sectionals, but lost to New York Mills, 1-0, in the Class C semifinal.
“It was a heartbreaking loss, especially since we felt we outplayed them most of the game,” Leonardi said. “I wouldn’t trade it, it was a great experience. We keep knocking on the door. One of these days we’re going to kick it down.”
Weedsport will have to do it without Chirco.
Following team tradition, she is preparing pass down her No. 19 jersey to an eighth-grader -- like Margaret Roberts did to her -- and continue to follow her family’s footsteps to play for Hobart and William Smith.
For Chirco, like Weedsport, it just feels like home.
“I get the same feeling driving into Geneva as I get driving into Weedsport,” she said. “I feel like that’s just where I’m supposed to be.”
WEEDSPORT — About seven-and-a-half minutes into the scoreless sectional quarterfinal field hockey game against Port Byron Oct. 25, Weedsport senior midfielder Taylor Lukins approached the circle to take a penalty stroke.
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” she recalled. “Then when the ball hit the backboard I was like ‘Did that just go in?’ I paused, then I just started screaming.”
The goal put the Warriors ahead 1-0 in a game they eventually won 2-1, sending them to the semifinals against Sauquoit Valley.
“If she doesn’t score there, you just wonder if it wasn’t a whole ’nother game,” Weedsport coach Theresa Leonardi said. “Port Byron had a great goalie, and without that goal, the momentum clearly shifts to them and then it’s really tough.”
That type of clutch play has come to be expected out of Lukins. The co-captain and team’s top stroker finished the season with five goals and two assists, was named to the first-team all-league, and has been chosen as The Citizen’s field hockey player of the year.
“You really need to be able to perform under pressure,” Leonardi said. “Everybody is watching you and if you make it, of course there is this great roar from the crowd. But if you miss, everybody groans. It’s a lot of pressure and Taylor handled that well multiple times for us, and that’s a real skill.”
Lukins has developed her field hockey savvy on varsity sinceher freshman year, and has been able to adapt to Leonardi’s needs on the field.
“During those four years, I’ve probably played her in every position at least once,” Leonardi said.
“Her strength is as a middie — she’s a true middie at heart — but she’s the kind of kid that if I need someone at defensive back, or if I need someone to play attack, Taylor will do that.
“She will do that without whining or complaining. She’ll do whatever you ask of her, and that’s a really nice asset to have on your team.”
Her willingness do to whatever is necessary has made Lukins one of the team’s top players, as well as a quiet leader on and off the field.
“She definitely leads by example,” Leonardi said. “Taylor’s not one that’s yelling and screaming, but you always know where she stands with things and it’s always about what’s best for the team.
“That’s her goal every day. I think she definitely deserves a lot of credit for that.”
With a talented, veteran group like the Warriors had this season, it was important for the scoring to be spread out. Lukins was one of three players who tallied five or more goals on the season.
“It may be scored by Taylor, it may be scored by somebody else, but it’s a team goal,” Leonardi said. “The person who scores the goal is simply the last person who touched it. They didn’t get the ball all the way up the field themselves, so therefore, yeah, they put the ball in the goal, but the goals wasn’t just theirs — it was a team goal.
“Taylor personifies that, she does a great job of making sure whoever scores the goal gets the credit and whoever helps score the goal gets the credit.”
But, unfortunately for Weedsport, it’s win over Port Byron was followed by a disappointing loss to Sauquoit Valley.
After most of the game went scoreless, a goal by Sauquoit Valley appeared to end Weedsport’s season.
Instead, the Warriors rallied back and tied it just 29 seconds later, only to lose in penalty strokes.
“It was kind of sad that it was all over, because we had grown so close to each other and knowing that we’re not going to be playing together again,” Lukins said.
“It was tough going down that way. I think I would have rather just lost the whole game instead of going through all of that. It’s just hard because you put so much into it.”
The loss was also a disappointing end for Leonardi.
“The two things I felt worst about was: one, that this team truly deserved to go on,” Leonardi said. “I’m not taking anything from Sauquoit Valley, I’m just saying I know how hard my girls worked and they really earned the right to go on.
“The other thing was that, as a coach, it’s so sad when sectionals are over. It’s like someone flicks a light-switch and the season just ends, and you don’t get to spend time with them (the team) any more. You really miss them.”
Lukins plans to continue playing field hockey in college, and has narrowed her college search down to SUNY Brockport and Utica College, having been recently accepted by the latter.
“She will be an outstanding addition to either program,” Leonardi said. “Taylor is an outstanding student, which is always helpful as a coach, it’s always nice knowing you don’t have to worry about them academically getting into trouble.
“Also, it’s nice to have kids out there thinking on the field and not robotically going through the motions. Taylor is very good about that. I suspect she will do very well no matter what school she chooses.”
Staff writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 282-2256 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenHough.
The Citizen All-Stars: Field Hockey
Taylor Lukins, Weedsport, Midfielder. The senior had five goals and two assists, and was an all-league first-team.
Gabriella Barrigar, Weedsport, Goalie. The senior finished the season with 75 saves, and was an honorable mention for the all-league team.
Gabrielle Charles, Auburn, Defense. The junior was named first-team all-league.
Elizabeth Chirco, Weedsport, Midfielder. The junior controlled play in the midfield, chipping in one goal. She was named first- team all-league.
Alison DiSanto, Port Byron, Attack. The senior co-captain finished her high school career with a nine-goal season, and added two assists. She was also named to first-team all-league.
Brittany LaForce, Weedsport, Attack. Despite missing half the season due to an injury, the senior tallied seven goals and five assists. She was the Cayuga County tournament MVP and was an honorable mention for the all-league team.
Nikki Loveless, Port Byron, Attack. The senior co-captain led the Panthers in assists (four) and had two goals. She was also named second-team all-league.
Amanda Lupo, Port Byron, Goalie. Lupo made 164 saves on 298 shots, and was an honorable mention for the all-league team.
Elizabeth Marsden, Weedsport, Defense. The senior co-captain had a goal and two assists, as well as being named to second-team all- league.
Brooke Myers, Cato-Meridian, Attack. The senior finished the season with four goals and three assists.
Kaitlyn O'Connell, Weedsport, Attack. The sophomore led the Warriors in scoring with eight goals and three assists, and was named second-team all-league.
Marissa Tarby, Auburn, Attack. The junior had two goals on the season, and was named second-team all-league.
Honorable Mention: Marlana Colella, Weedsport • Tess Dempsey, Auburn • Sarah Fuller, Auburn • Cassandra Greene, Cato-Meridian • Sydney Lattimore, Auburn • Marissa Leach, Cato-Meridian • Allie Mac, Auburn • LeAnn Spingler, Weedsport
Success comes again for Moravia’s Mackey
Hannah Mackey has accomplished, athletically, just about as much as an individual can. By the time the Moravia senior wound down her field hockey career, she held or tied most of the major scoring records as a Blue Devil; had been selected to numerous all-star teams; and led her All-Senior team to victory. She is The Citizen’s Player of the Year in field hockey.
Mackey has played with coach Doug Langtry on varsity for four years.
“She’s just a dominating player,” Langtry said. “You don’t get many players who are smart and a team player rolled into one. She can figure things out on the fly. She could probably play any sport she wanted to.”
Mackey will continue to play field hockey in college, where she plans to pursue a career in medicine. She has received interest from Division III-I colleges, but according to Langtry, is looking at small schools in hopes of winning a national championship.
Mackey was an easy targets for scouts. She scored 82 points in her career, shattering the school record of 50. As a senior, Mackey set the school mark for goals in a season (22), breaking the record of 19 and tying the record for points in a season (34).
Moravia had a successful season, finishing 12-5 and losing in the second round of sectionals. Its only losses came to either eventual champions or runners-up. Season highlights included the school’s first win over powerhouse Marathon in 14 years – a game that Mackey has three assists in.
The team will lose roughly half of their squad to graduation, but Mackey spent some of her time developing future varsity players. The senior showed up early and stayed late at practice teaching the younger Blue Devils a certain way to shoot or dribble.
“It builds the program when she helps others,” Langtry said.
As for Mackey’s next endeavors, Langtry is sure that she will successful.
“Whatever she plans on doing she is the type of girl who will do it,” he said. “She is very persistent on how she does things. She’s the type of kid you want on your team.”
Moravia's Mackey has knack for finding net
The glue that held the Moravia field hockey team together this season was junior midfielder Hannah Mackey, who, with her 19 goals and four assists, is The Citizen field hockey player of the year.
“She is a very unselfish player who would do anything you told her to do,” Blue Devils coach Doug Langtry said. “She knows how to move the ball around and is a real team player. She picked up on things really quick. Other teams were always trying to cover her and she dealt well with the pressure put on her.”
“When I was playing I just thought of how I could help the team most, even if I wasn't the one scoring,” Mackey added. “I would've liked to get more assists this season but I think as a team we did pretty well.”
Mackey is a three-sport athlete at Moravia, also competing in both basketball and softball. Though she thinks of field hockey as her favorite of the three and never believes she can get by on talent alone.
“I still have to work hard to be good at everything I do,” Mackey said. “Sports are fun and I enjoy it. I don't think I could go through school without playing sports so I definitely think it improves my academics even though I am so busy.”
But Mackey won't take sole credit for her improvement on the field.
“Having Maria Heffernan and Haley Potter as my teammates helped me a lot,” Mackey said. “Everyone played a part on the team to help me do so well and I couldn't have done this well without them.”
The team will be changing a lot after losing quite a few seniors to graduation and Mackey is hoping to be a leader throughout the changes and hopefully help keep the team a successful one.
“I would like to see us go farther than the first round of sectionals next year,” Mackey said. “We will need to build up our team again because we are losing so many good seniors. Our main skill of our team was in our seniors so we will have to adjust a bit but we will still have quite a few strong players coming back so I am hoping to be able to help our team next season and improve even more.”
Short stands tall for Panthers
The Port Byron field hockey team has grown in leaps and bounds over the past three seasons, and junior Ali Short has been right in the middle of the Panthers' improvement.
A veteran though just a junior, Short led the team goals and was named first-team, all-league, and has been selected as The Citizen's field hockey Player of the Year.
“I know that she's a really talented athlete in general,” Grunder said. “I coached her in softball one year as well, and she's just a really hard worker. She is willing to put in the time and the effort to be the strong player that she is. She works hard when she has to and that's probably one of her biggest assets.”
Short is a three-sport athlete, playing on the softball teams in addition to field hockey.
She got off to the 2008-2009 seasons in field hockey, scoring 14 goals and adding two assists - including a five-goal performance against Southern Springs.
Still, Short is eager to get even better.
“She's always asking me how she thinks she did at games at what she can do to be better,” Grunder said. “She's a really dedicated player. I think her hard work gives her that drive to be such a good player and be aggressive in the circle and score all the goals that she scored for us this season.”
This season the Panthers started off strong, winning five of their first six games before hitting a skid with league leaders Cortland and Cazenovia, then a tilt against Class A Rome Free Academy. Port Byron bounced back to make the playoffs but lost in the first round.
Still the improvement was evident. The Panthers went from winning just four games in 2007 to seven in 2008 and Grunder is hoping that Port Byron can surpass this season's success in 2009.
Short will factor in to the team's success.
“I expect the same, maybe more,” Grunder said. “I know that she'll continue to be that dedicated person.”
Senior tandem lifted Warriors
WEEDSPORT - Allie Beardsley and Katie Loperfido have been on the Weedsport field hockey team for four years. They've experienced all of the highs and lows that varsity sports can offer, and can still say that they went out on top.
The tandem made opposing defenses cringe all season, combining for 28 goals. Beardsley and Loperfido, both seniors, were the best at what they did throughout the count, and that's why they are the players of the year for the 2007 field hockey season.
“(Loperfido) is one of the best wings that will ever come through Weedsport,” Beardsley said. “We played really well together because she was left wing and I was left attack.”
Loperfido also has kind words for her teammate.
“Allie is a great athlete, she's a great leader and she just helps everyone,” Loperfido said. “If you have a bad day you go to Allie and she'll cheer you right up.”
Both girls shined from the season opener, the inaugural Cayuga County Field Hockey Tournament - which the Warriors won. Beardsley was named MVP and Loperfido was elected to the all-tournament team.
“It was nice coming into the season with wins behind us,” Loperfido said.
Besides Beardsley and Loperfido, a strong supporting cast led the Warriors to the Section III, Class D championship game. Though Weedsport's season was ended by Morrisville-Eaton and Cazenovia slipped away with the league title, a 15-5 record is still something that many teams would gladly have.
Beardsley has no regrets.
“When you don't have any years left you notice how much fun it is and you take advantage of every moment,” she said.
While both girls were named first-team all-league, and all-state (Beardsley was first team, Loperfido was an honorable mention), only Beardsley plans to play at the next level.
Weedsport coach Theresa Leonardi believes that all of the hard work the pair has put in has paid off. Especially for Loperfido, who found the net three times last year but scored 16 times in 2007.
“The both of them are willing to dive to get the ball, they really want the team to win,” she said. “They really want to get the goal and they want to do whatever it takes to make us successful.”