There’s nothing natural about grass for the Manhasset field hockey team.
“It’s unpredictable in some places and it’s a different speed, the movement of the ball, so receiving and passing of the ball becomes a bigger challenge on grass,” Manhasset coach Steve Sproul said. “We practice on turf and play mainly all our games on turf.”
The Indians, though, didn’t miss a beat Monday afternoon, beating New Hyde Park, 5-0, in a Nassau Conference I game. It was Manhasset’s first game on grass in more than a year.
“It’s a huge transition going from the turf to the grass. The ball is a lot bouncier,” Manhasset four-year starter Emily Koufakis said. “At practice we worked on our stops, we prevented the ball from getting into our circle. We focused on small passes and I think we did really well with that.”
Indeed, Manhasset (9-2, 8-2) dominated possession with short, crisp passing and made the most out of its set piece opportunities. The Indians, who put New Hyde Park (5-6, 5-5) on its heels early, scored twice following corners and once on a penalty stroke.
“We executed well on our corners,” Sproul said. “That’s tougher on grass, but we got them done today and we were able to capitalize.”
Koufakis set the tone for Manhasset, taking a long pass from Abby Kucharczyk and putting it past the New Hyde Park goalie 8:43 into the game.
“There happened to be a pocket on the right side and I was able to see that pass and I just hit it over the defender’s stick and was one-on-one with the goalie,” Koufakis said. “I just put it in the left corner.”
Regan Moroney followed with a shot through traffic after a corner three minutes later and Julia Glynn gave the Indians a 3-0 lead with 1:07 left in the first period.
Koufakis picked up the assist.
“She has worked at her game very well and she plays every game with the same amount of pizzazz as the others,” Sproul said of Koufakis. “She doesn’t care if its the 20th place team or the first place team, she’s going to go out there and give you 100 percent every single practice and every game.”
Alex Cirella, who added a penalty stroke goal 2:03 into the second period, also anchored the Indians solid backline, which registered its sixth shutout of the season.
“Our defense goes by the name of Fort Knox,” Sproul said. “We don’t let anything in and as such we try to keep people as far away from our defensive area as possible. We pride ourselves on our goalies not touching the ball.”
Brigid Kenny capped the scoring with 17:52 left in the second, tipping in a shot by Glynn, who had a goal and two assists for Manhasset, which has won back-to-back games after a second loss to rival Garden City.
“We have a really balanced offensive line,” Koufakis said. “When other teams are scouting us, there’s not player to look out for particularly. It’s all of us.”
And, as Manhasset proved Monday, it’s on all surfaces.
“To come out on grass and play the way we did, I think they accomplished a lot doing that today,” Sproul said.