MEDINA — The Barker field hockey team practiced not at Barker HS this week, but on the turf playing surface at Medina's Veterans Park.
The Vets Park turf serves to prepare the Lady Raiders for this weekend's Class C state tournament, to be played on turf at Cicero-North Syracuse HS, approximately 150 miles from the quiet town of Barker.
For all the successes of Barker field hockey in recent years, the Lady Raiders are two wins away from something that has always eluded them: a state championship title. Barker will face Cazenovia at 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Cicero, in a Class C state semifinal game.
If they win, the Lady Raiders will advance to face either Pierson-Bridgehampton or Whitney Point in the state championship game at 12:30 p.m. Sunday in Cicero.
"Our team has always worked hard for what we get," Barker senior captain Olivia Denny said. "It's on the basis of skill, but it doesn't come easily. Coach says that we're not putting in all this extra time just to lose, so we're making sure to give full effort all the way."
Under the guidance of second-year varsity coach Jeff Costello, the Lady Raiders rolled through the Niagara-Orleans League regular season with an 11-1 record, before defeating Roy-Hart, Holland and Eden in the Section VI tournament. Barker then emerged from a hard-fought game against East Rochester last Saturday with a 1-0 victory, on the strength of a beautiful stick-handling play by Gabby Clare that led to a late score by Erin Greenwald.
Denny, senior Heather Mason and junior Melissa Grosshans all earned first-team All-Niagara-Orleans League honors this season, but in a pre-practice interview on Wednesday afternoon, captains Denny and Mason wanted to credit the entire team for its work in reaching this level of state play.