Field hockey preview: It’s all about a talented junior class in Delco

Last year’s All-Delco team revealed an obvious fact about this season: The class of 2017, sophomores last year, is shaping up to be a special group across the county. Four of 12 first-teamers and four second-teamers hailed from the loaded class – for comparison, just three Class of 2016s were among the top two teams – and that nucleus is back to star on fields again this season.

It’s been a busy summer for that class, too. When USA Field Hockey convened for its junior national team camps in early July, identifying players for its Under-21, U-19 and U-17 teams, the junior class was well represented. Among those making the cut for those three teams were Episcopal Academy’s Corinne Zanolli, Agnes Irwin’s Julianna Tornetta, and Notre Dame’s MaryKate Neff and Cardinal O’Hara’s Makayla Gallen. (EA’s Marguax Paolino and Maddie Bacskai, both 2016s, were also in camp).

To preview the season, then, we should follow the sensational junior class across the leagues.

Like last season, things begin and end with Episcopal Academy, which won 26 games en route to an undefeated Inter-Ac season and the title of the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association Tournament.

Gina Buggy’s team deviates slightly from the theme of juniors thanks to their stellar All-Delco senior duo of Margaux Paolino and Maddie Bacskai, who’ll star at forward and back, respectively. Forward Corinne Zanolli adds the junior flavor to the group.

Despite losing eight key contributors, the Churchwomen still have plenty of firepower back. Senior Corinne Kneizys will be a rock at the back, as she and Bacskai will compensate for an area of relative thinness. Seniors Courtnie Williamson and Colby Gallagher and junior Lexi Fischer fill run the forward line, and Angela Rocca will contribute in midfield for a squad that figures to have the goal-scoring mettle to challenge last fall’s feats.

The most significant individual loss to fill falls to Agnes Irwin, where coach Alison Brant must replace 2014 Daily Times Player of the Year Sophia Tornetta, who led the Owls to 19 wins last year.

The solution: Another Tornetta, junior Julianna, who is slated to reunite with her sister at Princeton in two years. The All-Delco and Jax van der Veen comprise a daunting midfield duo, where they’ll get help from senior Kendall Henderson and sophomore Ellie Kirkpatrick.

Rosie Kalis returns for another season in goal, while the defense will be anchored by Morgan Smith, Meredith Murphy and Grace Weise, the latter of whom will split time between the back and midfield.

Notre Dame’s quest to replace seven starters from an 18-win squad is fueled by a strong junior class, led by All-Delco forward Quinn Maguire and second-teamer MaryKate Neff. Both recently decided their college futures, with Neff committing to Princeton and Maguire ticketed for Saint Joseph’s.

Beyond those two, the Irish will require a bevy of contributions to replace the outgoing starters. Juniors Colleen Kearney and Ryan Loftus will try to cover a defense that loses Kristen Mansfield, while their classmate Cami Osborne will hold down midfield.

Emily Lambert will likely join Maguire and Neff among the forwards, where sophomores Ava Leonhardt and Tina D’Angjollel will also get opportunities. Sarah Jane Quigley is a newcomer to midfield, while senior Caroline Allen will occupy a much expanded role in midfield and defense.

Archbishop Carroll's Sam Swart, left, fends off Bonner-Prendergast's Mary Anne Young in a game last season. Swart, just a junior, will be one of the main scoring threats on the defending Catholic League champs. (Times File)
Archbishop Carroll’s Sam Swart, left, fends off Bonner-Prendergast’s Mary Anne Young in a game last season. Swart, just a junior, will be one of the main scoring threats on the defending Catholic League champs. (Times File)

Goals won’t be in short supply for defending Catholic League champion Archbishop Carroll, led by junior standout Sam Swart. She’ll be joined at forward by seniors Gracie McClatchy and Gabby Sutter.

Senior back Mary Catherine Jones will return to support goaltender Kimmy McGrogary, who steps in for longtime backstop Kerri Mountz. Maddie Sutter, Jordyn Crossan and Hannah Bateman will provide the backbone of a speedy midfield.

Cardinal O’Hara’s standout is another junior, All-Delco forward Makayla Gallen. She’ll help the Lions challenge for goals alongside Kelly O’Hare and Sara Hayes, while goaltender Jen Ahearn will assume duties between the posts.

There’s a junior at the heart of Bonner-Prendergast’s efforts this season in All-Delco midfielder Riley Dolan. She’ll be the main protagonist on a veteran squad which includes seniors at a number of key positions.

Goalkeeper Maggie Baldini returns in the crease, supported by classmate Kacie Farrell, while juniors Casey Rafferty and Erin Murphy will contribute at the back. The midfield is spearheaded by Dolan and seniors Meredith Benson and Moira Smith, while underclassmen Kerri Quinn and Carly Brosious will be the forwards responsible for finishing goals.

Rounding out the star juniors is Ridley’s Emily Johnston, who made an impression by bagging goals at a furious pace last season to earn second-team All-Delco honors. Joining her on that squad was Haverford’s Tess Horan, a Drexel-bound senior forward/midfielder who returns for her final season.

Horan is joined on a Fords team replacing eight starters by senior forward Hanna Breslin, while junior Laura Winters and freshman Carly Gannon will also aid in the quest for goals that will be a distinct area of strength.

Junior Lee Van Luvender will anchor the defense, and senior Lauren Vanstone and freshman Meghan Phillips will stock the midfield.

Radnor’s strength will be a forward line led by seniors Katie Quinn and Emmy Sharrett that coach Ashlee Bailey hopes will have no trouble scoring goals.

The midfield will take its lead from Katie Wakiyama and Lauren Hemcher, with Emma Majercak and Morgan Gryga chipping in, while defender Natalie Junior is the lead of a defense that hopes to make goalie Morgan Stanley’s life easier.

A young group returns for Garnet Valley, led by senior forward Colleen Bradley.

The strength is mostly in the junior class, with Anna Dunn and Jackie Daniels returning as leaders on the forward line. Bridget Elison will step into the goalkeeper role, Eileen Armani will lead the defense and Taylor Romaniello and Leah Reynolds will contribute in midfield.

Penncrest gets to transition to the new turf this season, which might benefit no team at the school quite as much as the field hockey squad with the speed it introduces.

The Lions’ veteran core returns, with Marina Parsons, Allison D’Ignazio, Samie Martin, Kailey Martin, Maitlin Combs and Leah Hill gaining valuable experience last season. Willa Thompson is among the newcomers to watch.

Ridley's Emily Johnson (2) earned All-Delco honors a season ago as just a sophomore. (Times File)
Ridley’s Emily Johnson (2) earned All-Delco honors a season ago as just a sophomore. (Times File)

Youth will have to mature quickly at Strath Haven, where a large contingent of seniors graduated last year. It’ll fall to the senior trio of Maddie Stabinski, Megan Murray and Mizuki Davis to bring the younger girls along.

Stabinski and Murray will help discover goals, aided by talented sophomore Katie Capalbo, junior Val Henderson and freshmen Emily Raech and Ashley Hassell.

Joining Davis in defense is classmate Morgan Waters and junior Meghan Lashley, while Olivia Fender will split her time between defense and a midfield that may require time to take shape. Gillian Gunn steps in as the goalkeeper, the junior having studied under four-year starter Caroline Boyd.

Kerianne McGee will be one of the leading returnees for Upper Darby, while Taylor McElaney and Veronica Hudson will also contribute to the quest for goals. Veronica Hudson will step in as the goalie.

Delco Christian’s nine wins last season included a District One postseason victory, and that’s a level to which the Knights aspire to return.

The midfield will be the platform on which the team strives for its playoff return, led by seniors Beth Yeung and Emma Ellsworth. Forwards Kieran Thompson and Maggie Linton will star as forwards, while Allie Zubyk is the leader of the defense in front of new junior goalie Ana Yee.

Sacred Heart will be under the direction of Patty McNevin, and her task is to grow from last year’s six-win squad. They have several pieces to build on, including all-Catholic Academies League picks Brigid Gliwa (senior midfielder) and Hannah Seifried (sophomore forward). Gliwa is the roster’s only senior.

Joining that effort are juniors Emily Franz, Kellie McIntyre, Mary Rose O’Donnell and Liz Reid. Sophomore goalie Coleen Visser will start, and Emma Seifried will join her sister in trying to produce goals.

Sun Valley doesn’t have the biggest team, but it has a fair amount of returning talent.

Goals may not be the issue for the Vanguards, thanks to a strong midfield spearheaded by sophomore Liz Johnson and seniors Gia Bonaduce and Becca Burrell. Veterans Molly McGowan and Bailey Delellis will lead the forward line.

Chichester won nine games and claimed the Del Val title last season, and they return much of the group that accomplished those accolades.

Haley Fritz and Maura Murray bring experience up top, and their quest for goals will be aided by veteran midfielder Lauren Caraffa and Carli Lanza. The effort to prevent goals is led by goalie Nicole O’Donnell and backs Alex Maher and Alex Rybak.

Academy Park suffered through a two-win campaign last year, but there’s hope that relief is on the horizon. They boast seniors at every level of the field, from goalkeeper Veronica Bauman and defender Erika Leidy to midfielder Dakota Street and forward Kayla Payne. Sophomore Riley Street has also shown a knack for scoring.

Senior twins Cheyanne and Chantal Farmer, both new to the sport, are ones to watch, as they’ve pushed for starting spots in short order.

Olivia Murphy will be among the leaders for Interboro, who’ll rely on Jess Hinchey to hold things down in goal.

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