HILLBURN – Jess and Jess – juniors Jessica Clark and Jessica Back – managed one of the gates Saturday at the New York/New Jersey Field Hockey Challenge, a three-game scrimmage.
The teens, members of Suffern’s varsity field hockey team, had just finished playing Ramsey High School and were collecting the $2 voluntary admission donation at Torne Valley Recreation Center’s stadium.
Except, they noted, most folks were handing them fives and walking in without looking for change.
Those people got more than $5 worth of field hockey. Suffern coach Gaby Somma sat in the stands after her game and, watching Lakeland play West Essex, quipped about seeing Division I-level college drives while enveloped in the overwhelming odor of snack-bar chicken.
Ramsey High, winner of three of the past five Bergen County championships, defeated Somma’s Mounties 3-0.
Lakeland, which has won seven straight state championships, edged West Essex, winners of five Essex County titles, 2-1. Kelsey McCrudden and Cali Cortese scored for Lakeland.
Mamaroneck, which is coming off consecutive state titles (and has four overall) in Class A (largest school), lost 2-0 to Oak Knoll, the eight-time New Jersey champion.
The games afforded coaches the opportunity to assess their squads before diving into contests that counted.
But the scrimmages also counted, only in a different way and enough so that all the referees, top-level veterans who came from both states, volunteered their time.
The Challenge, an idea hatched, then implemented by veteran ref Chuck Cohen of Palisades, who also runs summer and winter leagues out of Torne Valley, benefited Suffern-based Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center’s breast cancer services.
Dee Leone, a New York ref who lives in Valley Cottage, and Kitty White, a New Jersey ref who lives in West Milford, New Jersey, officiated the final game. That was Mamaroneck’s, which saw Tigers head coach John Savage smartly attired in a bright pink shirt and more muted pink sneakers.
The two were supporting Cohen, who’s “such a good guy and an advocate for the game,” White said.
“Chuck does so much to elevate field hockey,” Leone said, adding of the day, “It’s just one of the good causes.”
It was also personal for White.
“I know the loss of cancer. Any time I can give back with cancer I do because of the loss in my own life,” White said.
Cohen ordered three dozen T-shirts that cost him $10 each and before the Mamaroneck game concluded, they’d sold out at $20 a pop.
Cohen never even got a shirt himself. But he wasn’t squawking. He’d guessed the event would raise about $600. It raised $1,200.
One West Essex parent donated $250 and Meghan McCarren, a 17-year-old Suffern player, refused to take her $75 50/50 raffle winnings. (Cohen eventually made her take $20.)
McCarren’s generosity wasn’t surprising. Somma has instilled in her kids a sense of community participation and responsibility.
Asked about what her coach has the team involved in this season, Clark, with a look of bemused resignation said, “There’s something every weekend.”
The list includes the recently held 12-varsity-team/six-JV field hockey scrimmage day to benefit the Jami Erlich memorial scholarship fund; the Tunnel to Towers Run to benefit injured first responders; hosting a game for local soup kitchens; hosting a military appreciation game to send goods to soldiers; and multiple things Somma characterizes as “mini team projects to just make people in the community happy.
“The reason I want the girls to be a part of any fundraiser games or events is so that they learn there is something bigger than them,” Somma said. “Field hockey might end after college but you can always help others. There is always a way to make the world better.”
As for the challenge, Cohen emphasized Saturday was a “first annual” event.
Lakeland coach Sharon Sarsen smiled and said, “He already made me sign on the dotted line (for next year).”
“Next year we might even expand to eight (teams),” Cohen added.