Penn-Trafford field hockey relies on defensive play while offense evolves

Friday, September 7, 2018 | 7:25 PM

In its quest for a three-peat in WPIAL Class AA, the Penn-Trafford field hockey team will look to begin its title defense by getting downright defensive with a solid, experienced goal prevention unit.

While the team’s young offensive attack gains experience and continues to develop in the early parts of the 2018 season, the Warriors will rely on a defensive unit that is spearheaded by a trio of senior captains in Lauren Kelly, Natalie Wilson and Danielle Ochendowski.

“Those three really anchor our defense right now and keep a lot of people out. I could mention and talk about every player, I really could. But those three have a lot of experience and really stand out on defense,” coach Cindy Dutt said.

“Lauren, I’m very confident in her at all times. She works well with the younger girls so she can bring them along. Her and Natalie are cool, calm and collected, and they just plug along and play their game. Danielle is also really consistent and she’s just a strong defense. She takes a lot of pressure off the other defenders we have, as well.”

Whereas the Warriors’ defense has an established feel to its positional groupings, the offense is still working on finding the right combination of personnel. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t talented seniors with experience that can help integrate some of the newer players in the Penn-Trafford lineup.

One of those seniors is Natalie Norman, who is returning to fill the right forward spot in her team’s offense. According to Dutt, Norman’s versatility will also allow her to see some time in the midfield when it benefits the team.

Another senior who has the potential to put points on the board is Kelly Melnick, who is described as a spark plug by her coach.

“She can just run forever,” Dutt said. “She can cover ground and see things coming ahead of time, she anticipates really well and can lead effectively. I’ve been playing her as a forward but she can play center-mid, too, because she’s so integral to distributing the ball. But then, she can also strike. She’s like a cobra out there. All of a sudden, she’s in and out.”

The moving parts that are yet to settle into a defined position for Dutt include sophomores Emma Little and Julia Moorhead. The duo are particularly effective when deployed on the field together because of their uncanny chemistry, according to their coach.

Newcomer Allyson Doran also figures to make an impact on the field once the team finds the right fit for her.

“I’m optimistic that we’re going to pull it together. It’s a younger squad and we’ll click, but we just haven’t done it yet. It won’t be long, it’s just a matter of finding out who works best with whom on the field and positioning them appropriately,” Dutt said.

“That’s where we’re going to be for now. We’re looking to find that magic lineup that’s going to let everybody play their best on the field.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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