POTTSTOWN >> The Hill School field hockey team hasn’t gotten where it is by playing easy opponents. On the contrary, the Blues try to put together as tough a schedule as possible, filled with top 20 nationally-ranked teams whenever they can.
One of those came to town on Wednesday afternoon and The Hill showed why it is ranked No. 1 in the country by displaying good passing, aggressive play in the circle and strong defense and goalkeeping in a 5-1 win over No. 17 Wyoming Seminary at Cunningham Field.
Opal Sparling scored twice in the first quarter, Riley Savage added two goals in the third and Maggie Kondrath finished up the scoring in the fourth. Keeper Hala Silverstein directed the defense and made four saves as the Blues ran their record to 14-0.
Kylie Romanchick scored late for the Blue Knights (13-4-1), who have won four consecutive PIAA Class 1A titles, ncluding a 6-0 win over Oley Valley in last season’s final.
“I pride myself in building the toughest schedule in the country for my team,” Hill coach Jen Weissbach said.
“It’s super cool to see seven or eight top 20 teams on our schedule this year,” said Michigan-bound senior Silverstein. “We see a lot of players who are going to Division I. We have a target on our backs. But we want to stay humble. We just play our game.”
Wyoming Seminary picked up the first two penalty corner tries of the game and hit the post with a shot midway through the opening quarter.
But the Blues dominated the play for the rest of the period and finally cashed in when Sparling knocked in a shot from the left wing with 28 seconds to go. Then the Knights were whistled for a foul a fraction of a second before time ran out. The Blues converted the corner with no time left on the clock when Sparling took a pass from Jaedyn Scarlatos and ripped in a shot from just inside the top of the circle.
“We have a really good passing team,” said Sparling, a freshman midfielder from Chester Springs in the Owen J. Roberts School District. “We’re good at switching from defense to offense. I think any of us can put the ball on the net.”
The Blues continued to control the rest of the half, throwing shot after shot on the net, and eventually broke the game open when Savage scored early (on an assist by Abigail Gerdeman) and late in the third quarter.
“We’ve really been focusing on attacking the circle,” Weissbach said. “We play a passing style of hockey, giving us some nice opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.”
“We’ve been really practicing finishing and cleaning up our circle play,” Silverstein added.
The Hill finished with a 16-6 advantage in corners and forced Wyoming Seminary keepers to make 19 saves, 16 in the first three quarters by Laine Cabell and three in the fourth by Megan Cotrone.
And while Silverstein did not have to fend off many shots, a lot of that had to do with the effective defense in front of her.
“I have to credit my defense for being so awesome,” Silverstein said. “They stop a lot of stuff before it gets to me.”
Besides displaying impressive field hockey skills, Weissbach and the players credit a close-knit team concept as a key to their success.
“We have probably the most talent on this team that I’ve ever had,” said Weissbach, who is in her sixth season helming the program. “One through 24 could all start. We all play for each other. I’m most proud of the culture we’ve built here. It’s nice to see them onboard with that.”
And many of them playing on the same club team also helps the cohesion.
“It’s nice to play with teammates who are on my club,” Sparling said.
“Besides that, our team dynamic and culture really helps our team,” Silverstein added.
Last year, the Blues won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League, but suffered a disappointing 3-2 last-minute loss to Episcopal Academy in the PISAA final.
It’s is one of the reasons for playing talented teams like Wyoming Seminary from the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area.
“It’s a great game for us to prepare for states in November,” Weissbach said.
“We definitely want to look at a state championship,” Silverstein added.
The Hill School 5, Wyoming Seminary 1
Wyoming Seminary 0 0 0 1 – 1
The Hill School 2 0 2 1 – 5
HS-Opal Sparling (Jaedyn Scarlatos)
HS-Riley Savage (Abigail Gerdeman)
Corners: HS-16, WS-6
Saves: WS 19 (Laine Cabell 16, Megan Cotrone 3), HS 4 (Hala Silverstein)
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