SHRUB OAK, N.Y. -- Gianna Bensaia made sure she was one of the first Lakeland High School players to arrive at the first day of field hockey practice on Monday.
Once Bensaia got to the field, 20 minutes before practice started, she was one of many walking in as the Hornets began preparation for the 2012 season. Lakeland will open the season on Sept. 8, at John Jay-East Fishkill.
“The look on everyone’s faces told us everyone was ready to go and that just showed the dedication and determination was there,” said Bensaia, in her fourth varsity season.
The three-time defending New York State Class B champions welcomed 25 players to practice, which has Bensaia, and fellow captains Rebecca Bard and Kristen Conroy excited.
“In the past we’ve only had about three, four girls trying out for varsity,” said Bensaia, who verbally committed to the University of New Hampshire. “We like the fact that these want to take on the challenge of playing varsity for Lakeland. We will work with the younger girls to help prepare them.”
The tricaptains led their teammates through a fast-paced two and one-half session, before leaving the field for the varsity boys' soccer team, the 2011 Section 1 Class A champions.
Lakeland was in mid-season form after spending the summer playing together in the Hudson Valley Field Hockey Summer League, which concluded last week.
“Playing in the summer league gives us a chance to work together as a team and also get the kinks out,” Bensaia said.
Bensaia, Bard and Conroy are joined by classmates Abby Murdock, Marissa DiSisto, Mairead Hourihan and Elizabeth Bell. The seven seniors will look to continue the tradition of excellence established by their previous teammates. Lakeland is currently on an unprecedented run. The Hornets are the only Section 1 field hockey team to have won three consecutive state championships. In fact, Lakeland also won state titles in 2003, led by seniors Andi Coiro and Danielle Fiore, and 2006, led by seniors Melissa Gonzalez, a member of the 2012 USA Olympic women’s field hockey team, Kara Connolly, Rebecca DiSisto, Rosemarie Fazio and Amy Voelkel.
Bensaia knows that opponents are going to underestimate Lakeland this year after the graduation of its top two offensive players -- Shannon Scavelli, playing at Michigan, and Emma Bozek, playing at North Carolina, and goalie Krista Servedio.
“That will push us harder this year and motivate us to get out there and play,” Bensaia said. “Lakeland field hockey has a tradition and we always have to progress. Every year we want to continue stepping forward.”