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Pace University field hockey head coach Kayte Kinsley hosts clinic at Williamsville North

By the time the month of May comes around, high school spring sports like lacrosse, softball, and track are in full swing. However, at Williamsville North High School on the first Sunday of May 2019, dozens of girls were on the turf at 9:30am practicing for a fall sport, field hockey.

Despite it not being field hockey season for school, a large group of players came to Will North Sunday for a clinic with some local high school coaches, along with Kayte Kinsley, the head field hockey coach at Pace University.

Kinsley and the Setters have built a good relationship with Williamsville and the field hockey scene in Western New York. Three Will North seniors, goalie Samantha Mallare, forward Jenna Piotrowski, and midfielder Lauren Rabinowitz, have all committed to play field hockey at Pace.

“The connection just started the past couple years with recruiting the girls from this area,” Kinsley said. “The sport has been growing so much in Western New York, it’s almost like a new little hot spot. The relationship started with these three girls coming in and committing for next year. We want to keep diving into this pool of good athletes up here.”

Williamsville North has been the premier field hockey program in Western New York the last few years. The Spartans finished with a record of 35-0-1 against Section VI teams over the last two seasons, have won the last four Section VI Class A Championships and were the runner up in the 2018 Class A State Final. Mallare, Piotrowski and Rabinowitz played big roles with those Spartan teams; but despite all their success for their school, Kinsley and other college coaches still might have never discovered the trio if they didn’t play for their club team, the Williamsville Stampede.

Founded just two years ago, the Stampede is one of three field hockey club teams, along with the Buffalo Hurricanes and WNY Whalers, currently in Western New York and is a non-profit organization.

Two years doesn’t seem like a long time, but with the growing popularity of the game in the area, the organization has brought forward a great opportunity for girls to play outside of the school season and has made quite an impact when it comes to getting players recruited. Twelve different girls from the Williamsville Stampede have committed to play college field hockey and nine different schools since the club’s establishment.

“We wanted to help grow the game in Western New York,” Mike Piotrowski, Jenna’s father and one of the founders of the Stampede said at the clinic. “There are so many opportunities in field hockey at the collegiate level that people aren’t aware of. It’s a growing sport in college and there are so many opportunities for scholarships.”

Along with helping their players get discovered by colleges, the Stampede also gives girls a chance to start playing field hockey competitively at a young age. The club team certainly helps the high school and modified athletes who want to keep playing outside of the school season, but the Stampede has some girls as young as 10 years old in their program. With four different teams (12u, 14u, 16u, 19u), over 90 players, and a number of coaches with experience in Western New York, the Stampede have set up the foundation to give a lot of kids the opportunity to play more field hockey.

“We never expected anything like this when we started playing back in sixth grade,” Mallare admitted. “We’ve gotten so much exposure traveling as a team to all these different places. And it’s made it easier for the younger girls to get exposure earlier.”

Samantha’s father, Joe Mallare, another co-founder of the Stampede estimated the team was on the road for “20 weekends” last year, and that’s not including the two and a half months during the school season. Recently in a tournament at Penn State, the Stampede finished first in their bracket, defeating a number of teams from Pennsylvania, a state that is considered a hotbed for field hockey recruits.

“These girls have gone and played tournaments in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Boston, and more,” Mallare added. “We’re going all over, and I see leaps and bounds of what this has done for the kids.”

Going to these tournaments around the country and playing the best competition has played a big part in the Stampede’s success of getting their players recruited. Kinsley also admitted it’s nice that players from New York are getting a chance to face some of the top teams from around the country, and stacking up well against them at that.

“The more field hockey grows in New York, the better it is for our recruiting,” Kinsley stated. “We’d love to stay and get kids from in state. The more club teams like the Stampede grow and the more school programs grow, the better it is for us.”

The growth of the Stampede has been almost parallel with the growth of Williamsville North’s field hockey program. The majority of the girls on the older Stampede teams also play (or played) for the Spartans, and all that time the group spends playing together on the club team leads to their dominance in the school seasons.

“We play together all year,” Piotrowski said. “We have great chemistry. We know exactly what each other are going to do immediately. You get used to playing with certain people and it just helps you get better.”

The Stampede’s presence in Western New York has been noticeably positive for Williamsville North, but players from other schools are starting to catch on. There were girls from roughly half a dozen different schools at the Pace clinic with coach Kinsley on Sunday, meaning more athletes are serious about field hockey. Some of the upperclassmen have noticed the uptick in interest over their career, and they’re happy to be right in the middle of it.

“In eighth grade we played on another club team and the sport was not this big,” said Rabinowitz. “But as we kept going, more girls started playing. Now teams have more kids involved, and now field hockey is a pretty big deal here. I never expected it to be.”

Western New York, and more specifically Williamsville, will continue to get more exposure in the high school field hockey scene over the next few years. The State Finals were held at Williamsville North High School last year and will be there again for the next two seasons. As for the Stampede, their plan is to continue to grow as an organization, and help promote the growth of field hockey all over Western New York.

“The more you see the growth in the club, you know that it’s only going to get more talent that you can recruit from that area,” Kinsley said before heading back to the field to start her clinic. “There’s a ton of potential up here. We’re just excited we’re here now, early, and we’re going to keep it going. Something as simple as running a clinic like this, it all starts here.”

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