Field Hockey Notebook: Vol. 1

Wissahickon field hockey is making a comeback.

Or at least so it seems.
After struggling to an 8-13 record last year, the Trojans – who had grown accustomed to life at the top during the Katie O’Donnell era - are off to a 3-0 start. Included in those three wins was a pair of come-from-behind road wins over Christopher Dock and Springfield (Montco) to close out the week last week.
Ask Lucy Gil the secret to her team’s success in the season’s early going, and she doesn’t hesitate.
“I would attribute it to my captains,” the Trojans’ coach said of seniors Adelle Lever, Natalie Draham and Bridget Burgoyne. “They each bring something really special. Adelle (brings) talent and intensity. Bridget is the organizer and puts everything together for everyone and is a great defenseman. Natalie has the enthusiasm – just what you would think a forward and striker would have.
 “The three of them are exactly what this team needed.”
Leadership is paramount on a team that has four contributing freshmen – Lauren Becker, Gretchen Guaglianone, Zoe Kale and Lizzie McKenna - on its roster.
“The freshmen we picked up this year have been really, really wonderful,” Burgoyne said. “They’ve adjusted really nicely from middle school and grass to the turf. They have made an incredible adjustment, and they’re really helping out our team from every angle.
“Usually the freshmen hang out on the side until they get used to it, but they jumped right in. They’re great.”
Lever remembers what she felt like as a ninth grader on the varsity.
“When I came in as a freshman, I would just run hard, and that’s all I would do,” the senior midfielder said with a laugh. “Now I know you have to relax, calm down and play instead of just running because I felt so much pressure playing varsity.
“They seem to adjust more (easily) than I did because there are four of them. Every once in a while I’ll encourage them, and I’ll tell them what they need to work on, but a lot of them have played in club, so they’ve already played at this level before.”
The tri-captains acknowledge that their sub-.500 showing last year was disappointing and – to some outsiders - may have validated the belief that the team was carried by O’Donnell, a member of the U.S. National team.
“It was almost like everyone was right about Katie O, but we’re a young team,” Draham said. “We’ve had an opportunity to develop over the years.
“This year we want to come out really strong and make it far in the playoffs.”
The team’s motto is ‘We are one,’ and the players say they began to start feeling ‘as one’ during an offseason that included open play – without coaches - twice a week.
“This group of girls really meshes together nicely on the field and off the field,” Burgoyne said. “We have had a lot of team bonding experiences. We get along really well. We don’t have to worry about petty team drama. It’s all on the field, and we know everyone is in this to play hard.”
‘Skins make statement – Anyone looking for the team to beat in the SOL doesn’t have to look very far. Neshaminy notched a statement win on Tuesday when they did what few teams have been able to do in recent years – defeating perennial state power Mount St. Joseph Academy 2-0.
This is the fourth year the two teams have met. The Redskins won the first (1-0), and the Mount the next two (2-0 and 3-1), a streak the Redskins broke with last Tuesday’s win.
“I think they came out a little flat, and we came out like you want your kids to – moving to every ball and hustling,” coach Lisa Pennington said. “The 50-50 balls that were out there – we seemed to be winning more than our share. We just kept hustling and feeding each other.”
The Mount, according to Pennington, never got over the 50 for the first 10 minutes of the game and managed just one shot and did not draw a corner in the first half. A goal by Moriah Allen (Marlaine Schneider assist) sent the Redskins into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
“I said to the kids, ‘They’re coming out on fire. They’re not used to being down,’” said Pennington, whose team had six first-half corners. “My goalie, Alexa Bell (six saves), stepped up in the second half and made some really nice saves.”
The Mount had six corners in the second half to four for Neshaminy, but it was the Redskins getting on the scoreboard when Schneider scored a hustle goal late in the half.
“The Mount was putting pressure on,” Pennington said. “The defense just picked it up. They kept playing smart. We played as a team. It was a great way to start off the beginning of the season. We were ecstatic, but we have to build on it.”
Four days earlier, in their season opener, the Redskins were extended to overtime before downing Hatboro-Horsham 1-0. Keeping the Hatters in the game was senior goalie Jenna Phillips, who turned away 15 shots – including a penalty stroke.
“She was stopping everything we were throwing at her,” said Pennington, whose team was sent packing by the Hatters last season in the second round of districts – 1-0 in overtime. “She was unbelievable. I’m thinking the ball is in the cage at least four times, and it’s somehow not.”
Schneider scored her team’s lone goal in the win.
Turchi sidelined – Taylor Turchi is an invaluable part of the Springfield hockey squad, but because of an injury, the gifted midfielder has found herself keeping the scorebook instead of playing on the field.
“That’s a very big loss that we’re trying to adjust to,” Spartan coach Kati Dougherty said.
Turchi, a captain, not only was a key to play at both ends of the field, she took the Spartans’ penalty strokes and was their primary corner striker.
“The girls have done a nice job of stepping up and regrouping,” Dougherty said. “As bad as you feel for the team, you feel worse for her because she’s put a lot of time into this sport in the offseason, and to have this happen her senior year is heartbreaking.
“She’s extremely mentally tough and been a great supporter for the girls.  She’s rising above her injury and being strong.”
New-look Indians – Fans of Souderton field hockey might need a roster to identify the many new faces in this year’s lineup. With just three seniors on their roster, the Indians are very, very young.
One familiar face that has come up huge is senior Ann Jefferis. The Indians’ standout goalie, a soccer player who went in the cage for the first time last year, had 12 saves in the Indians’ 2-0 over the Upper Perk and then had 10 in Friday’s 2-1 win over Hatboro-Horsham. She had 17 in Monday’s 1-0 overtime loss to Central Bucks West.
“She’s athletic, but she also has a real good knack for following the ball and the next possible play, and she has the quickness to make the play,” Souderton coach Mary Ann Harris said. “We have an inexperienced backfield, and she’s going to have to be really alert and strong and direct them to play stronger.
“That’s going to be an important part of our game.”
With the loss of their big gun, Nicole Nelson, to graduation – Nelson is playing hockey at Syracuse on a scholarship, the Indians have had to look elsewhere for scoring. So far, they’ve received a lift from freshman Alayna Brown, who had a goal in each of the Indians’ two wins and is apparently a quick study.
 “In our first game, she had a one-on-one with the goalie and hit it right to her pads,” Harris said. “Since then, we have been working on that, and she did it perfectly on Friday against Hatboro.
“She stayed low, pulled the ball to the right and shot. She still has a lot to learn, but she learns fast.”
SOS.com’s Fab Five (This random ranking is based on information available and will undoubtedly change tomorrow!)
  1. Neshaminy (4-0)
  2. Central Bucks West (4-0)
  3. Upper Dublin (4-0)
  4. Wissahickon (4-0)
  5. Upper Moreland (4-0)
Under consideration: Central Bucks East (3-0)