Southern Field Hockey Team Aims to Keep Good Times Rolling
For the past few years, the Southern Regional field hockey team has been powered by experienced players. Eventually, though, graduations occur and a new cycle of players must come through the varsity system.
Such is the case for coach Jenna Lombardo’s Rams this season. After graduating 12 seniors following a 17-3 season in which it was Shore Conference Class A South champions, Southern may seem like it’s almost starting at Square One this season.
But is it?
“Our junior varsity team had a lot of juniors and was undefeated last season,” said Lombardo, who has 15 seniors on this year’s squad, four of whom were starters a year ago. “Denise Logue and Megan Hart do a phenomenal job of preparing our younger girls, and without them doing such a great job our program wouldn’t have had the success it’s had over the years.”
Among the returning senior starters, two are forwards – Kelly Fontana and McKenna Ferraro – while the others, Lauryn Flynn and Holly Essinger, are defenders. Another senior returning is midfielder Andrea Janowiak, but she played in a limited role last season. Also returning to the starting lineup is junior midfielder Kate Conroy.
Of course, the biggest graduation loss from last season was Madison Skeie, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons and now playing for Providence College. Making up for the void she left behind will be a challenge for the Rams.
“I’m hopeful that our offense will be all right,” Lombardo said. “Losing Skeie was huge, and I’m finding out now just how big of a role she played here. It’s hard to replace a player like her, but it might work out for us because it will force a lot of players to raise their level of play.”
Whether that rise in play will come from the other 10 seniors on the squad – Hanna Van Waalwijk, Kaitlyn Spaschak, Alessia Martin, Jordyn Korpon, Makenzi Kalsch, Tyler Everett, Gill Buchansky, Crystina Blaney, Jess Bilotti and Nicole Barcz – remains to be seen.
However, a pair of newcomers to the roster, sophomore midfielder/defender Emma Wilhelm and freshman midfielder/defender Maitland Demand, may be impact players this season.
“Emma’s really stepped up in a great way during the preseason. And Maitland really has been awesome so far,” Lombardo said. “Whether we work them in at midfield or defense, they should help us.”
Another big spot that needs to be filled is at goaltender. After losing Nicole Andriani following three fantastic seasons, either Spaschak or juniors Madison Leyh and Emma Cotter will be next in line to be the last line of defense.
“We’re still molding a lot of players and waiting to see who’s going to step it up,” Lombardo said. “This season, our focus is to be tough at every position on the field.”
Flynn believes she and her teammates are capable of keeping up with the better teams in A South this fall.
“We have the potential to be a really good team,” said Flynn, who acknowledged that she and the senior starters returning to the team are going to be looked at to be leaders on the field. “Our confidence is going to be a big part of how this season goes. But if we believe in ourselves, we can have success.
“We’re going to have to come out each game on fire, with a lot of passion, communicate well and play smart, and don’t make stupid passes. We have a lot of capable players. We’re just going to have to work really well as a team.”
— David Biggy