Pinelands Regional Field Hockey Team Shooting for Another Championship
The Pinelands Regional High School field hockey team is coming off its best season ever, and head coach Liz Law and assistant coach Shaun Wells believe the 2016 team could be just as good. The 2015 Wildcats went 16-5, were the Shore Conference South B co-champs along with Jackson Liberty, won a game in the notoriously tough Shore Conference Tournament and made it to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 Tournament semifinals.
Success can breed success.
“Our confidence level after last year is high,” said Wells. “The girls know they can go out and beat anybody at any time.”
Pinelands, however, lost three starters to graduation – tri-captains Noel Hartman, Alexis Hawkins and Sumer Keady. Three players may not sound like much, but as Law said, “we’re a very small program.”
There are, said the coaches, only 24 girls in the entire Pinelands program, both varsity and JV. The Wildcats had scrimmaged against Southern Regional this summer, and the Rams had 34 girls on their JV squad alone, requiring their own bus.
However, that smallness, said Law, has its advantages.
“I like having a small squad,” she said. “You can spend individual time with the girls. And a lot of times we practice as one large unit instead of as JV and varsity.”
That helps the younger girls.
“Our young players play very smart,” said Wells. “It’s like they’ve played at this (varsity) level for two years already.”
“We had a scrimmage against Jackson Memorial,” Law said. “We won, 3-2, and two of our goals were scored by freshmen.”
It isn’t as if Pinelands doesn’t have any returning starters.
“We have the same forwards as last year,” Law said.
Those forwards include junior Brianna Suralik and senior Susie Cardillo. The former was the team’s top scorer in 2015 while the latter was third on the scoring list. The girl in between was Rachel Papernick.
“She’s an incredibly versatile and skillful player,” said Law of the sophomore midfielder. “She can play offense, she can play defense, she can play any position.”
Scoring is great. The 2015 Wildcats were 2-2 on Sept. 25 but improved to 11-3 by Oct. 15, outscoring the opponents during that period by a 36-6 margin. But as games get more important, defense and goalkeeping tend to become predominant. When Pinelands defeated Jackson Liberty to essentially clinch a share of the B South title, the score was 1-0. The Wildcats won their quarterfinal state tournament game over Sterling by the same 1-0 margin – in double overtime, no less!
The two goalkeepers from last year, Julia Kline and Monica Mahon, are back.
“They’re both incredibly strong,” said Law.
Other key players on the 2016 squad, she said, include Katie Keeney, Madison Hawkins and Madison Dancisin. Two newcomers, freshmen Sarah Keady and Noel Mahon, also figure to make an impact.
So the outlook for the Pinelands field hockey team is bright.
“I would like to come back and win B South again and, realistically, compete in the Shore and state tournaments,” said Law. “But my real goal is to watch the girls progress together.”
Pinelands fans who would like to check out this team in person will have a golden opportunity on Thursday, Sept. 8 in a special night game, starting at 7.
“We usually have senior night towards the end of the season, but we’re opening up the season with it this year,” said Law.
— Rick Mellerup