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Lakeland Field Hockey Opens Defense of State Title

SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Gianna Bensaia found it extremely difficult to sit and watch her Lakeland varsity field hockey teammates open the preseason with its first practice Monday.

The senior is sidelined with a sprained ankle so Bensaia had to control herself from grabbing her stick and running on the field.

“My whole summer I’ve been stepping on a field to play field hockey. So I was excited that it was preseason and the team would be together again, ” said Bensaia, one of Lakeland’s top players, along with Shannon Scavelli and Emma Bozek. “Sitting here and watching my teammates has been so hard because I want to play.”

Monday was the first day of practice for varsity and junior varsity teams in all of the fall sports, with the exception of football, which opened Friday.

In order to keep herself busy, Bensaia was working out in the weight room before sitting on the bench on a picture-perfect summer morning.

Lakeland, fresh off winning the Hudson Valley Summer League field hockey title, began its quest for a third consecutive New York State Class B championship. The Hornets, led by coach Sharon Sarsen, have won a Section 1-leading five state titles, including four this millennium – 2003, ’06, ’09 and ’10. Lakeland is hoping to become the first Section 1 field hockey team to win three successive state championships.

Lakeland ran through its two-hour morning session crisply. Following practice, Bensaia joined her teammates when Sarsen spoke to the team. The seniors took the lead, with Scavelli and Bozek showing the way. Bensaia watched the underclassmen assert themselves.

“I was impressed by the upcoming sophomores,” Bensaia said. “They were doing so well and you can see they were breaking out of their shells. They were a little timid when they were younger, but not today.”

The Hornets would have a two-hour session later in the evening with a special guest. Former Lakeland great, UConn graduate and current United States Field Hockey team member Melissa Gonzalez would be the guest instructor.

“It will be really great having her, especially with her being on the U.S. National team,” Bensaia said. “It was great to see her during the summer when she played in the summer league. She is so informative, so easy to talk to, friendly and a great player.”

Bensaia accepts the fact that she can’t return before her ankle agrees. However, once Bensaia is back on the field, she will continue to work magic with Scavelli and Bozek.

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