PSD's Dan McCarty caught up with some of the teams during practice.
Academy of Notre Dame fighting Irish finished undefeated last year claiming the Inter-Ac title and winning their second consecutive PAISAA state title.
The Irish have their work cut out this time around as it faces a competitive schedule. After winning their regular season opener 3-2 on August 31 against defending state champions Penn Manor, the lady Irish are up for the challenge.
“We’ll be competing for the title,” said head coach Adele Williams. “We have a more challenging schedule and we expect to be challenged with the core of players returning.”
The Irish are leaning on their experience and returning starters to set the tone.
Back are sophomore goalkeeper Paige Kieft, junior defender Emily Graeff, junior midfielder/forward Mia Leonhardt, junior midfielder/forward Megan Mitchell, junior defender Brianna Odgers, senior defender Belle McHugh junior midfielder Jess Schneider, junior forward Vivi Trumpbour, senior forward Mary Kate Trevisan and senior co-captains Lauren Curran (forward), Isabella McHugh (defender) and Maggie Pina (defender).
“We’re ready to start the season,” said Curran. “We look forward to continuing our winning streak. Young players have stepped up. Everyone has a good attitude. We’re working hard.”
Germantown Academy made it to the final round of the PAISAA state championship against Academy of Notre Dame. The Patriots also had a monumental year beating Episcopal Academy for the first time in 10 years.
“Our team is looking to build on our success from last season. The girls are committed to improving each training session and game,” said Germantown Academy head coach, Jackie Connard. “They've worked hard to analyze their strengths and weaknesses as a team and individuals, and are focused on capitalizing on strengths and improving the weak spots. This is a dedicated and hard-working group, and I'm excited to see how they develop over the course of the season.”
The lady Patriots will be lead by senior captains Maddie O’Hara and Sammy Popper. Popper said that she is looking forward to having another strong league season in order to end her GA field hockey career on a high note.
“This year we are working to be a very fit and physical team. We have a lot of returning varsity players, so we are used to playing with each other and are striving to be a cohesive unit,” said Popper, who verbally committed to play at Princeton University next season. “I’m really looking forward to our Inter-Ac games this year, especially against stronger teams like Episcopal and Notre Dame, because we performed well last year and I’m hoping that we can do the same again this year. I’m also really looking forward to GA/PC day because it is always a super fun day and it will be my last time playing in one ever.”
The Episcopal Academy field hockey team had a remarkable 2017 season finishing second in the Inter Ac League. It dropped a decision to Germantown Academy in the semifinal round of the PAISAA playoffs.
“We graduated a strong group of seniors,” said head coach Gina Buggy. “We have speed and an athletic goalkeeper. We have a young defense. The ability to work as a team will determine how successful we’ll be.”
This year the Churchwomen bring back a bunch of committed players including four senior starters. Among them are forward Gianna Pantaleo (Boston University), defender Lauren Devletain (Dartmouth), goalkeeper Carolyn Kelly (Boston University) and forward Maddie Rehab (Bucknell).
Baldwin School field hockey is also ready to start another season. The team saw tremendous improvement last year as it picked up more victories in the Inter Ac League as well as in non-league action.
“I’d like to build on the progress of last season,” said head coach Karen Lancaster.
Leading the way for Baldwin this time around are four main starters including senior captain and midfielder Nadia Dixon, junior captain and center back Maria Harlamova, junior midfielder Juliana Charles and sophomore midfielder Alice Zehner. The core of strength right now is in the midfield.
“We all work cohesively,” said Dixon. “Old players help new players. We know each other very well. We communicate with each other.”
The Agnes Irwin Owls finished fourth in the Inter Ac League during the 2017 season. The team slipped to top-seeded Academy of Notre Dame in the Pennsylvania Independent Scholastic Athletic League (PAISAA) semifinals.
With a wide array of returning players that hold plenty of experience, it expects to be even more competitive this year. It is not just the veterans, however, as many underclassmen have also stepped up with enthusiasm.
“I expect a lot of energy from a young team,” said head coach Ali Monzo. “Their level of play is the most I’ve seen from a freshmen class in a long time. It’s great for our program.”
Heading the list of veterans are three captains; senior goalkeeper Paige DiLullo, senior forward/midfielder Katie McGovern and junior defender/midfielder Ciaran Scott. Two additional key starters are sophomore attack and center/midfielder Emma van der Veen and junior midfielder Kacy Hogarth.
“The mood of the team is figuring out how to work together and focus as a team rather than just ourselves,” said McGovern.
The Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Blue Devils are ready to hit the fields with a squad full of seniors and they plan to bring on that experience full force this season.
Kathryn Mersky will begin her sixth year as head coach.
“We are headed into this season with great enthusiasm as we only graduated two seniors last year - many of our team is returning. We have 14 seniors many of which are starting.”
Mersky’s goals for her team this season are simple.
“We are working towards not just being a good field hockey team, but a great field hockey team.”
The team is led by senior captains Sarah Edelson (offensive mid), Delaney Sweitzer (offensive mid), Savannah Sweitzer (forward) and Kianah Watson (center defensive mid). Junior Shannon McNally returns at goalkeeper. Eyes will also be on sophomore defensive midfielders Ainsley Rexford and Caroline Reitmeyer and forward Brooke Prochniak.
“This team is comprised of many multi-sport athletes,” said Edelson. “Each contribute elements of their respective sports to their field hockey game. I am looking forward to seeing how we will benefit from having athletes who are strong in different areas of the game, and how this will allow us to progress as a team.”
Edelson also describes her team as “tenacious, scrappy, resilient and athletic" and believes they will be strong contenders in the Inter-Ac League.
SCHA 2018 Varsity Team (photo SCHA athletics)
Mersky also emphasized her team’s close-knit relationship and plans to build upon that bond by working as a unit both on and off the field.
“Tactically. our goals are to hold each other accountable, play as a team, and fight regardless of whether we are winning or losing. To play two-half’s and work on our transitions around the field.”
“Our strength lies within our speed and resiliency,” said Watson. “We are a team that wants to win and we have the heart to do whatever is necessary. As for goals, we want to have a better record than our past seasons, and we want to work on fighting until the end no matter what the score is.”
Inter-Ac League action begins tomorrow.
Springside Chestnut Hill away vs. Penn Charter @3:45 p.m.
Agnes Irwin home vs. Academy of Notre Dame @3:30 p.m.
Germantown Academy home vs. Episcopal Academy @3:30 p.m.