FIELD HOCKEY: STEADY CLIMB OVER SERIES OF YEARS HAS WINDSOR ON BRINK OF STATE TITLE
By ROB CENTORANI
Broome County East Sports Report
Many of the Windsor girls who'll travel to Long Island this weekend have been on the other side of things.
They've experienced lopsided losses, losing seasons, lessons learned through failure and they stuck with it. Slowly, gradually, step-by-step their fortunes turned and now they find themselves two victories from securing the Black Knights' first state championship in field hockey.
They're not one of Section 4's blue bloods, they're not a Whitney Point or a Greene or a Marathon or a Maine-Endwell or a Vestal, programs that have numerous state championship plaques in their trophy cases.
But they are persistent. This group has persevered, dedicated themselves to the sport and in 2023 they've proven they can compete with anyone.
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Windsor (15-3) will face Section 1's Mamaroneck (20-0-1) in Class A state semifinal at Centereach High. The winner will play for the state title the following day at noon against Section 11's Northport or Section 6's Orchard Park.
"We went from not even being .500, to .500, to finally having an over .500 season, to having a dominant season last year and a dominant season this year," said coach Taylor Lippolis, who took over Windsor's program in 2017. "Each of those years we took another step up, another step up.
"For me, it's been extra rewarding because I know what it's like to be on the bottom and have work up."
Senior Anna Finn, the all-time leading goal scorer at Windsor, has been on the Black Knights' varsity since the seventh grade.
That was no accident. Lippolis knew that to take Windsor to another level, her program needed to get younger.
"I just doubled down on youth and on the modified program," she said. "I pulled up a lot of young players. As the years kept going, we kept pulling up younger girls. Anna's grade started catching up and then three years later, we have five freshmen starting.
"We really just invested a lot of time in younger players and now those younger players are our senior class and junior class. Now we have a pipeline in this program and that's something we didn't necessarily have before."
Once the winning started, the commitment among individual players to devote more time to the sport followed. The skill level of the players rose and coming into this season, Windsor appear ready to ascend to the upper echelon of Section 4 teams.
"I definitely saw it coming," Finn said. "We have a lot of seniors this year and older girls who have a lot of experience with our team. We've been playing together for a long time and we just started to put it all together."
The season started with a 9-0 victory over Walton and seven games into the season, the Black Knights had outscored their opposition, 45-2.
"I feel like we've definitely earned it," sophomore Ella Stonehouse said. "We spent so much time and committed so much to this team."
Asked how many months out of the year she'll have a field hockey stick in her hands, Stonehouse replied, "All 12."
She described an indoor travel league in the winter in which the whole team competes. That runs through April and then during the summer it's more travel leagues.
"After each season playing in those travel leagues, we definitely see an increase in skill level and our abilities to play with each other," she said.
Lippolis said the commitment needed to translate into victories.
"Winning helps with motivation," said Lippolis, a Windsor graduate who played college field hockey at William Smith. "I knew we needed to get wins. The more wins we got, the more enthusiasm the girls had. Then we just built on that. The more and more success they taste, the more they want to work.
"We're seeing it now in the postseason now that we're close to the end. They're doing everything they can, they're coming to practice early, they're scouting all of our opponents. The success definitely helps with the buy in."
And now they're two wins from state supremacy.
"We're in Section 4, so we play challenging teams every game," said Finn, who scored her 26th goal of the season in Windsor's 2-0 state quarterfinal victory over Rome Free Academy. "This year, being able to compete with the level of teams we've played against, tough games, gritty games, have opened all of our eyes into thinking, 'Oh, we can go far this year. Let's do that.'"
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