Aquinas field hockey rebuilding on the run

Saturday, October 14, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Someone forgot to tell the Aquinas Academy field hockey team that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

Despite many losses to graduation and a freshmen-heavy roster under new coach Erin Queen, the Crusaders are moving toward a third consecutive trip to the WPIAL Class A championship game.

The highlights of the season include a 2-0 victory over Class 2A Upper St. Clair on Sept. 28 to improve Aquinas Academy to 2-2-1 against a demanding schedule. The Crusaders played another Class 2A school, Latrobe, to a 1-1 tie and lost to Class 2A Fox Chapel, 2-1.

“I did think it was a rebuilding season,” sophomore midfielder Francesca Hite said. “But the freshmen are all improving really nicely. We’ve had a lot of improvement from our previous games. We’re playing pretty well.”

The Crusaders returned six starters from last year’s 6-6-1 team, which lost to Ellis School, 3-1, in the WPIAL Class A finals. The previous season, they lost to Shady Side Academy, 1-0, as they became the first team in school history to reach the WPIAL championship game in any sport.

“This is the third year, so we want to go to the finals and we want to win finals,” said Queen, a former Aquinas assistant who was promoted after 11-year coach Jen DeWitt moved out of the area. “It will be the first time in Aquinas history, if it happens. We are very focused on it. We talk about it daily.”

Queen’s senior twin daughters, center midfielder Alexa and defender Mackenzie, are returning all-section picks. Alexa Queen has committed to Division III Bates College, where she will join her older sister, former Aquinas standout Emma Queen.

The other returning starters are senior defender Anne Dolan, junior forward Zoe Solomond and sophomores Elliot Keverline, a midfielder, and Hite.

But nearly half of the roster are ninth-graders at the tiny Catholic school in Hampton, including new goalie Aarona Casas Arnedos.

“She’s really got a great attitude,” coach Queen said. “She’s not afraid of anything. She’s stepping up, and she’s going to be really strong.”

Casas Arnedos’ father, Albert, was a field hockey goalie in Spain and is working as an assistant on Queen’s staff.

The other first-year starters are junior defender Katherine Repasky, sophomore right wing Felicity Koble and freshmen Grace Chrobak, a midfielder, and Clare Urban, a forward.

Hite, who moved from defense last season to midfield, said the Crusaders’ transition game is improving.

“Our ability to get up the field and get it into the circle is doing really well right now,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of scoring opportunities so far, so I think it’s showing a lot of promise for the future.”

Coach Queen brings a wealth of experience to the top spot. A longtime Fox Chapel middle school coach, she was a high school All-American for Nichols School in Buffalo, N.Y., and played at Boston College and St. Lawrence (N.Y.), back when her name was Erin Masterson. She said she attended prom at Nichols with arguably the school’s most famous alum, former Duke basketball great Christian Laettner.

“I’m dead serious,” she said. “I really went to the prom with him. That’s no joke.”

Aquinas is trying to waltz into the WPIAL finals again. All four Class A teams — Shady Side Academy, Ellis School, Winchester Thurston and Aquinas — qualify for the WPIAL semifinals, which are Oct. 28.

Shady Side Academy, which beat Aquinas, 4-1, in their first meeting, is the presumptive No. 1 seed. Aquinas defeated Ellis School, 4-1, in their first meeting and still had a pair of games remaining against Winchester Thurston, on Oct. 10 and Oct. 18, to settle the playoff seedings.

“I think we are doing really well on focusing on our mistakes and working on improving them,” Hite said. “We are looking forward to making the WPIAL (finals) again and if we keep improving, I think we have a very good chance of making it again.”


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