Familiar face leading Shady Side Academy field hockey

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Saturday, September 15, 2018 | 3:30 PM


Betsy Gorse is the new coach for the Shady Side Academy field hockey team. She didn’t need directions to get around the campus.

Except for a brief interlude when she stepped aside to spend more time with her family, Gorse has been staple of the SSA field hockey scene.

“I started coaching here back in 1988, right after I got out of graduate school,” she said. “At that time, we were part of the ISGAL (Independent School Girls Athletic League). In 1993, we became one of the first SSA teams to join the WPIAL.”

For the last 20 years, she has been coaching the SSA middle school team.

She takes over a team that finished 12-3-1, won the section and finished second in the WPIAL in 2017. The Indians lost six players from that team — Eliza Worrall, Sophia Moritz, Riley DeFiore, Eliza Fisher, Charlotte Everett and Grace Anania.

Worrall and Moritz were on the All-WPIAL selections and Anania and DeFiore were honorable mentions.

Returning starters are all-section goalie Clara McCormick, backs Bella Faiello and Ella Benec, midfielders Abby Todd and Zoe Conomikes and forward Annabel Kuhn. Returning letter winners include forwards Campbell Wolfe, Coco Redican, Ashley Chu, Claire Taylor, Amy Yu and Paige Shea, along with backs Annie Everett, Cealy Fryncko and Brenna Fouser.

There also are some promising newcomers in the mix.

“We have nine new players to the team this year in addition to the 15 returning players,” Gorse said. “At this time Dylan Green, Cecelia Messner, Jenny Woodings, Marnie McCormick and Sydney Demchak (all freshmen) have been seeing a lot of playing time in our two scrimmages and the first game of the season.”

Gorse is not planning any sweeping changes.

“We are stressing fundamental skills this year and recognizing that doing those will ultimately help to improve our overall game. We are also working on improving our overall strength and conditioning during the practices, and the team is buying into both of these concepts. We have had some chronic injuries that are keeping or limiting some players on the field so in that regard, every single person on the team needs to be ready to jump on the field when called upon and plays an important role.”

She is concerned about the youth of the team.

“We are a very young team this year with three seniors, three juniors, nine sophomores and nine freshmen, so our lineup is predominantly made up of new high school players,” Gorse said. “The upperclassmen have been showing positive leadership and been very helpful in supporting the younger players. There is currently a lot of excitement and our players are buying into what we are teaching them. In turn, the coaches are seeing a lot of improvement in play and in overall confidence in just the first month.”

Due to WPIAL restructuring, which reduced the number of sections from three to two with 10 teams in each division, the Indians will face some new teams.

“We are in Section 2 this year and while in past years, it has come down to SSA and Ellis as one of the section champs, this year we also have Latrobe and Woodland Hills in the section,” Gorse said. “I really do not know much about either team, but I anticipate that they will bring strong competition this year to our section.”

“It is going to be an exciting year for this team, and we have set high goals, including winning the section and winning the WPIAL in order to return to the state playoffs, which has not happened in years. I am thrilled to have three strong returning seniors to lead this team as well as the three juniors.who are setting this positive tone.”

Captains for SSA will be Todd, Benec, McCormick and Faiello.

“They, along with Zoe Conomikes, are the core to the system we are using this year,” she said. “Every team member continue to work extremely hard at practice and we showed strength in our two scrimmage wins against Fox Chapel and Oakland Catholic during preseason.”

The Indians opened up the regular season with a 4-2 nonconference win over Peters Township on Sept. 8. Todd scored twice and Annabel Kuhn and Taylor also scored.

Marty Stewart is a freelance writer.

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