By Mike Zummo
Courtney Palmer was worried, having already missed so much due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She had missed her lacrosse season last spring and her prom, and she was concerned about losing her field hockey season, as well.
Palmer and her teammates on the Pine Bush field hockey team waited out a delayed fall season, and a snowy February, and are making the most of every opportunity they get on the field.
They may not be winning every game, but they’re happy to be playing.
“I’m so happy we were able to pull it together,” said Palmer, a senior forward. “There were definitely doubts in my mind that we wouldn’t be able to do it because of all the new orders taking place. But our school was pretty good getting things together, but they were kind of slow with doing it.”
Palmer scored the lone goal in Pine Bush’s most recent game, a 1-0 win over Onteora on Friday afternoon at Pine Bush Elementary School.
Pine Bush has won two of their six games, also posting a 2-0 win over Ellenville on March 17.
“I think we’re all very thankful to have the opportunity to play,” sophomore captain Jennifer Sorrentino said. “It’s a short season, so we’re trying to cherish every moment with our team and with the seniors. We don’t have much time left to play with them so we’re really trying to enjoy it now.”
For Sorrentino, time was even shorter as she played in Pine Bush’s first two games before suffering an injury. She said she expected to begin practicing Monday and return play in Tuesday’s game against Kingston.
It’s been a long road to get Pine Bush on the field, as after the New York State Public High School Athletic Association postponed football and volleyball from the Fall to March and April. Section 9 followed by postponing the rest of the sports to the same season.
“It was definitely upsetting because we were all looking forward to the season and we were off waiting to hear when we would be able to play. When we hear that we were going to be able to start up in March, we stayed hopeful that it wasn’t going to get postponed.”
Then the high-risk winter sports of basketball and wrestling were allowed to go forward giving the field hockey players hope.
That’s about when snow started falling in February, calling into question whether their field at Pine Bush Elementary School would be ready.
They made the best of that, too, rolling some turf onto the school parking lot to get practices in. They finally got on the field in the third week.
“It was a little damp, and we made it work, and eventually it just dried up when the weather started to get warmer,” Sorrentino said. “We’ve had a few games scheduled, but they have all been rescheduled.”
Which is really the best they could have asked for, especially for the team’s seven seniors – Palmer, Natalie Dolson, Brooke Florin, Brooke Russell, Kylie Sabatini, Emily Schmidt, and Hannah Vendy.
“I would have been very upset as a lot of things in the past year has been awful,” Palmer said. “For the team, I would have been very upset because this was the last thing that I would have wanted to do. Field hockey is my sport.”
Pine Bush is unique in the sense that it is the only school in Orange County with a field hockey team, and one of only two Class A teams in Section 9. Kingston is the other. All their opponents are in either Ulster or Dutchess counties.
“We have very long bus rides, and we try to relax on the bus, and we have fun,” Sorrentino said. “It’s fun being around each other and we just try to enjoy the moment.”
Sorrentino has been playing the sport most of her life, introduced to the sport by her mother, Lisa, also Pine Bush’s head coach for over three decades. The players try to recruit their friends to play on the team, and no one is ever cut.
“It’s very easy to make the team and we don’t judge you, and we help you as much as we can,” Sorrentino said. “The coaches have set everything up and made the opportunities available to the kids.”
That’s how Palmer came to the sport when she was in eighth grade, when she was introduced to it by a friend, and she’s been on the varsity since junior year.
“She told me I should try it and I did,” Palmer said. “What’s different about our teams is that our coaches accept everybody, and she places them based on their skill level so that they improve. Nobody is better than everyone else. And it was in that atmosphere that I was accepted right away.”
After this week, while Sorrentino has two more seasons in front of her, Palmer will bid farewell to the program that has been her home for five years.
“I’m going to miss a lot of that family atmosphere and just working together with my teammates,” Palmer said. “I’m also going to miss just playing the sport itself. I wouldn’t want to play it with anyone else. My team is the only people I would want to play it with.”