Pine-Richland aims to return to WPIAL field hockey title game

Sunday, August 27, 2017 | 11:00 PM

Last season, the Pine-Richland field hockey team put together a landmark campaign.

For the first time in program history, the Rams went undefeated in Section 1-AAA on their way to their first section title.

The team battled its way all the way to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game before bowing out to Fox Chapel but still earned the program's first PIAA tournament berth.

So with five seniors returning from the breakthrough squad and starters back throughout their lineup, how do the Rams plan on following up on their success?

“We talk to the seniors, and it's their last year so what do they want for their season? They set goals for themselves,” coach Donna Stephenson said. “They want to win their section. They want to go undefeated. They want to win WPIALs, and they want to go farther in states.”

Though its goals are lofty, Pine-Richland should enter the 2017 field hockey season as one of the favorites to bring home the Class AAA title.

One reason to believe the Rams can achieve their objectives is the team's defensive prowess.

Sarah Mooney and Ava Loskoch return to fill out back positions after helping to hold WPIAL opponents to just 10 goals in 16 games last year. First-year starters Keegan Kline and Heidi Van Dyk also will start, with Anna Kosanovich, Lauren Peterman and Christy Malcho backing them up.

Stephenson's team will be breaking in a new goalie with Abby Baratka minding the net, but the fourth-year coach said she is not worried about how the sophomore will handle the responsibility.

“She works year-round at it. She's really dedicated to that position, and she spends a lot of time training to play it,” she said. “She's going to be a great goalkeeper. She loves the position, and she's becoming a vocal leader in the backfield.”

Meanwhile, on offense, All-WPIAL performer Sarah Metzmaier returns to lead a group of forwards that includes Vivian Cavanaugh and Alexa Sharron. Behind the trio of starters, Claire Loftus, Ella Rottinghaus and Jordan Landreneau will provide depth.

The Rams also boast a strong crew of midfielders with three returning starters: Marina Miller, Molly Rottinghaus and Alora Sharron. Coming off the bench will be freshmen Elania Camino and Kirsten Chilcoat.

Though the team does return a lot from a runner-up group, Pine-Richland knows it still will have to work hard in order to earn every win.

“We're not our best yet. We still have to really work together to be a disciplined team on offense and defense. We need to get in sync playing with each other. It can take a little bit of time for players to get used to playing together, but when they do, it's fun to watch,” Stephenson said.

“There's a lot of good competition in the WPIAL, too, so we have to come together and take it one game at a time if we want to have success against all of these good teams.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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