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2017 Mercury Area Field Hockey Preview

The 2016 field hockey season was one to remember in the Mercury’s coverage area.

Owen J. Roberts went back-to-back to claim its second straight Pioneer Athletic Conference title while The Hill School claimed the Mid-Atlantic Prep League title after a dominating season.

Upper Perkiomen won its first 10 games of the season and eventually found itself in the PAC title game (where the Tribe’s championship hopes where ruined by OJR for the second consecutive season).

Methacton and Upper Perk found themselves right on the doorstep of the PIAA state tournament during their respective District One Tournaments.

How will the 2017 season shape up?

Boyertown

Boyertown’s Sydney Fox scores against Pottsgrove during a game last season. Fox is one of a few Bears returning this season, though the team graduated 16 seniors from last year’s squad. (Digital First Media file)

Coach: Karen Kooker, third season.

Last year’s record: 3-7 Pioneer Athletic Conference; 9-10 overall.

Players to watch: Forwards: Sydney Fox, Jen O’Connor, Cassie Kidwell. Forwards: Allison Melahn, Hannah Mitchell; Defense: Asia Swenk.

Outlook: As is often the case, the Bears will be up against it this season in a fierce Liberty Division that features most of the league’s strongest powers. Boyertown graduated 16 seniors from last year’s program, and will look for leadership in the cage following the graduation of two-year starter Kaitlyn Berger. “We have a young but eager group of girls ready to start the season,” said Kooker. “We hope to surprise some teams this year and end with a winning record.” Boyertown’s last winning season came in 2008, when the Bears finished 7-5 in the PAC (11-7-1 overall).

Daniel Boone

Coach: Rachel Hartman, first season.

Last year’s record: 4-5-1 Berks Conference I; 7-10-1 overall.

Players to watch: Senior: Katie Dotterweich, goalie. Sophomore: Mackenzie Ring, forward.

Outlook: First-year head coach Hartman takes over a Blazer squad that put in a strong showing in their conference in 2016, while battling against Berks League powers including state playoff qualifier Twin Valley (10-0) and Wilson (8-2). They’ll be without graduated All-Area Second Team selection Cara Shackelford and Honorable Mention Adrianna Cozzone, but return experienced Dotterweich in the cage. “I am very optimistic for the upcoming season,” said Hartman. “We have a lot of talent returning, and a lot of talent coming up. While it will be a learning year for the team, I expect us to get some great wins and grow together as a unit.”

Hill School

The Hill School’s Maddie Mitchell (8) looks to cut back with the ball as a British School of Uruguay player defends during a game last season. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Coach: Jen Weissbach, first season.

Last year’s record: 12-4-1 overall (Mid-Atlantic Prep League champs)

Players to watch: Seniors: Sophia Manganiello, goalie; Giavanna Tabarrini, midfield; Maddie Mitchell, defender.

Outlook: Weissbach, who serves as the head girls basketball coach in the winter, takes over following the departure of Julie deLaurentis. The Blues are coming off a strong 2016 season where they captured their first MAPL crown since the 2013 season. Now they’ll need to pick up the pieces following the departure of All-Area First Teamers Alexis Grippo (Wake Forest) and Lexi Davidson (Duke) along with Second Teamer Erin Kelly (University of Pennsylvania), all lost to graduation. “With the loss of a large and impactful senior class, we will be looking to many new faces to represent The Hill field hockey team,” said Weissbach. “We are excited for the challenges that lie ahead within our league and local opponents. We look forward to defending our MAPL championship this season, knowing that we have a lot of work to do before then.”

Methacton

Boyertown’s Asia Swenk and Methacton’s Olivia Hoover compete for possession during a game last season. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Coach: Sarah Quintois, sixth season.

Last year’s record: 7-2-1 PAC; 15-5-2 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Olivia Hoover, forward; Emily Owens, forward; Gretchen Alderfer, defense. Juniors: Julia Dickinson, defense; Katy Benton, midfield; Frankie Lucchesi, midfield. Sophomore: Liz Chipman, midfield/defense.

Outlook: Coming off a deep run in the District 1 Class AAA playoffs last season, the Warriors are looking primed to go even deeper this season. Back are leading-scorers Hoover and Owens along with five other starters from last season. Methacton was at its best during the mid-point of last season where they put together an 11-0-1 including impressive wins against PAC Liberty foes Boyertown, Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley as well as a win against the Frontier Division’s Upper Perk. During that stretch, the Warriors outscored opponents 45-8 with six shutouts. The biggest question mark will be in goal, where Molly Frey will look to fill in the void her older sister, Addie Frey (Ursinus), left after her graduation last spring. “This year’s team has great strength through the starting line and some experienced players who will see significant playing time,” said Quintois. “There is great sense of energy and excitement within the players on this year’s program. The team has sights on making the league, district and state playoffs.”

Owen J. Roberts

Owen J. Roberts’ Sarah Garritano tries to get the ball away from the stick of Perkiomen Valley’s Morgan Narducci during a game last season. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Coach: Amy Hoffman, third season.

Last year’s record: 10-2-1 PAC (two-time PAC champion); 15-6-1 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Bridget Guinan, forward; Sarah Garritano, forward; Riley Hanson, defense; Rylie Hijosh, defense/midfield; Kelsey Kilgallon, defense/midfield; Cassie Micklesavage, goalkeeper. Juniors: Natalie Fuertsch, defense/midfield; Bridget Gallagher, forward; Eloise Gebert, mifield; Sophia Murray, midfield. Sophomores: Julia Lamb, midfield; Jenna Kirby, midfield.

Outlook: The Wildcats, who lost three starters from last year’s PAC championship team, look primed to make another run into the district playoffs this season. Fuertsch emerged after returning from injury late last fall while Guinan and Garritano were lethal in front of the opposing cage all season long. Mickelsavage was a stonewall in the OJR cage where she was part of 11 shutout wins as the team also returns the brunt of its defensive front. “With the majority of our roster returning from a year ago, we will be working to strengthen our core, as well as looking to our younger players to fill the remaining roles on the field and continue the competitive nature of our program,” said Hoffman, who has won two PAC titles in her two years at the helm. “With the commitment of all of our players, the team is looking forward to competing this season, as well as making another run at a league and district title and heading back to state tournament play.”

Perkiomen Valley

Coach: Erik Enters, ninth season.

Last year’s record: 4-5-1 PAC; 9-9-1 overall.

Players to watch: Senior: Taylor Hamm, sweeper; Junior: Gabby Martina, forward; Sophomores: Katie Wuerstle, midfield; Danielle Hamm, midfield.

Outlook: The Vikings were in the midst of a solid run last season before dropping four of their final six games — including a 2-1 loss against Haverford in the opening round of districts. Gone from last year’s squad is standout goalie Miranda Wesley along with midfielders Abby Bergman and Natalie Johnston as PV will once again boast a youthful squad. The Vikings allowed just 11 goals through 13 games against PAC opponents last season, a number that Enters would love to see go even lower. “Although we will miss Miranda Wesley in goal, senior Hannah Roerden has been working very hard to prepare for the starting job in goal. With the addition of Samantha Rumler (Millersville ’17) as our Varsity Assistant/Goalie Coach, and a healthy Taylor Hamm steadying the defense, our team is hoping to lower that to single digits.” Perk Valley will also play its home games off-campus this year at the Training Center’s turf field in Spring City. It should be a whole new look for the Vikings, who were 2-7 in games played on turf and 7-1-1 on grass last season. “The transition to a faster surface will be tough at first but we hope to be even more competitive in our away games this season.”

Phoenixville

Coach: Claire Emplit, first season

Last year’s record: 7-2-1 PAC; 10-9-1 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Gabby Herschell; Becca Lewis; Tyler Hall. Junior: Ameerah Green.

Outlook: The Phantoms had a strong showing within the PAC’s Frontier Division — their only two losses coming against conference runner-up Upper Perkiomen — and played into the second round of the District One Class AA playoffs. They’ll bring back plenty of experience in All-Area Second Teamer Green along with seniors Herschell, Lewis and Hall this season.

Pope John Paul II

Coach: Alicia Kirby, second season

Last year’s record: 6-4 PAC; 7-8 overall.

Players to watch: Katie McGuigan, goalkeeper.

Outlook: The Golden Panthers graduated eight seniors from last year’s squad, which qualified for the District One Class AA playoffs. This year should provide plenty of challenges, though, as PJP looks to move on following the graduation of five players, including All-Area First Teamer and leading scorer Jackie Lerro.

Pottsgrove

Coach: Jodi Sproule, first season.

Last year’s record: 1-9 PAC; 2-15 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Anna Myers, Lexi Spanos, Maddie Gillette, Gabby Polce.

Outlook: Sproule takes over a Pottsgrove unit that has just eight total wins over the past six seasons. That said, she seems up to the task, speaking highly of her seniors and of a renewed approach with the Falcons. “We have some great talent on the team. Our seniors are good leaders and are excited to get started with the season,” said Sproule. “There will be position changes on the field, but everyone has a great attitude. We are looking to build up the team, develop a positive team dynamic, score some goals and enjoy the game.”

Pottstown

Coach: Brandy Scherer, 12th season.

Last year’s record: 2-8 PAC; 3-13 overall.

Players to watch: Senior: Trinity Miller, midfield. Juniors: Reilly Owens, defense; Da’zah Regusters, midfield; Elsie Cannell, forward; Taylor Sundstrom, midfield.

Outlook: It wasn’t the start the Trojans had been searching for last season, beginning the year 0-9 with just five goals to show before finding more success down the stretch. They’ll look to gain traction early on this season, with a small roster bolstered by returning talent in Miller, Regusters and Owens. “Our goals this year are simple: focus on our strengths, continue to improve daily and stay positive,” said Scherer. “We have a small team which means everyone must step up and be a role player. If we put in the hard work and dedication, I think we will see success.”

Spring-Ford

Methacton’s Emily Mycek, left, looks to get past the defense of Spring-Ford’s Lexie Nugent last season. Nugent was named the Mercury’s All-Area Player of the Year last season. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Coach: Jennie Anderson, seventh season.

Last year’s record: 7-2-1 PAC; 12-7-1 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Erin Wilson, Defense; Clare Kennedy, Offense/Midfield; Sarah Cooper, Defense; Kara Smeltz, Defense.

Outlook: The Rams ended a memorable season in forgettable fashion – dropping three straight including a 1-0 loss in the PAC Final Four to Owen J. Roberts followed by a season-ending 3-2 loss to Oxford during the opening round of districts. Now they’ll look to build on last season, despite the loss of All-Area Player of the Year Lexie Nugent along with Emily Hart and Lexi Ciano. “This year we are returning a core of the starters from last year’s team,” said Anderson. “We will look to build on the experience gained from last year and use it to help us be competitive in all of our games this year.”

Upper Merion

Coach: Angie Yanocha, 12th season.

Last year’s record: 3-6-1 PAC; 6-10-1 overall.

Players to watch: Molly Weygand; Rella Staley.

Outlook: The Vikings’ first run through the PAC wasn’t completely forgettable, though it did end with the team dropping six straight game before ending the season with a win against Marple Newtown. Upper Merion picked up PAC Frontier Division wins against Pottstown and Pottsgrove as well as a tie with Phoenixville. With several new faces joining the squad, this could be another season of adjusting. “Our goal is to continue to improve as a team and build from our basics,” said Yanocha. “Several new players will be stepping into different roles this year and we hope to work successfully together as a team and get stronger with each game.”

Upper Perkiomen

Upper Perkiomen’s Gabby Martin (11) and Kathryn Lehman (14) embrace after topping Methacton 2-0 in the PAC semifinals last season. Martin, Lehman and Michaela Swenk all graduated from last year’s team as the Tribe looks to make a run back to the PAC Final Four. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Coach: Jamie Warren, 10th season.

Last year’s record: 10-0 PAC; 19-5 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Autumn Gahman, defense; Hope Flack, forward; Liz Fox, forward/midfield; Kaylie Siwy, forward/midfield. Juniors: Abriana Gatto, forward; Morgan Chowns, defense. Sophomore: AiYi Young, defense.

Outlook: Coming off a PAC runner-up finish and a season that ended right on the doorstep of the PIAA Class AA playoffs, the Tribe looks plenty poised to put together another solid run in 2017. Gone are All-PAC First Team players Gabby Martin, Michaela Swenk and Kathryn Lehman, though Upper Perk returns the bulk of last season’s lethal lineup, including All-State defender Young along with a handful of decorated seniors. One game to certainly have circled on the schedule — Sept. 22 vs. Owen J. Roberts, the team that ended UP’s hopes of claiming a PAC title each of the past two seasons. “We will be led by our four senior captains (Fox, Flack, Gahman and Siwy) who have chosen the quote ‘Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle’ as our theme this year,” said Warren. “We have a strong group of returning juniors and sophomores and we adding to the mix our talented freshman. Our team is working hard to have another chance to earn a league and district title and as well as competing at the state level.”

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