Pine-Richland field hockey growing into dominant program

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Saturday, September 26, 2020 | 11:01 AM


A new dynasty in WPIAL field hockey could be on the horizon.

Pine-Richland has won two of the last three WPIAL Class AAA championships, and this season’s team may be the best yet with seven returning starters, a junior transfer committed to Louisville and a goalie who is replacing her older sister in net.

The Rams aren’t getting ahead of themselves, however.

“It would definitely be amazing to win another championship, but I have a lot of respect for the other teams in WPIAL and we aren’t going into this season thinking any of this will be easy at all,” senior Elaina Camino said. “We know it’s going to be a challenge.”

The Rams will attempt to win back-to-back championships for the first time in program history.

Coach Donna Stephenson, who founded the program in 2004, said years of consistency at the high school level and youth programs have fostered on-field success.

The team’s four seniors — Ella Rottinghaus, Natalie Loftus, Jordan Landreneau and Camino — have played together for six years, forming a core that gives the Rams veteran leadership at every level on the field.

“Ella and Elaina are our two captains, and they’re both vocal, especially Elaina on defense,” Stephenson said. “Elaina directs everyone on defense to get in position and is strong defensively, and Ella is in the midfield, where she’s very fast and carries the ball very well in transition.”

Rottinghaus is the Rams’ top returning scorer with 22 points. Combined with Landreneau and sophomore Mary Wymard, the trio scored 28 goals last season.

The Rams will get reinforcements from junior midfielder Fiona Kortyna, who came off the bench and scored the game-winning goal in the WPIAL championship game last season, and junior transfer Rylie Wollerton.

A Louisville commit, Wollerton scored five goals in her first game for Pine-Richland.

“Rylie has such an amazing shot,” Camino said. “It’s so cool to see her in the circle, see her stick skills come through and it’s a lot of fun playing with her.”

For all of the talent on Pine-Richland’s attack, the defense and junior goalie Sadie Baratka present a difficult challenge to score against in practice.

“Over the last few weeks, we have really pushed each other to practice like we play,” Rottinghaus said. “We go all out, and we hope that makes us better as a team. And it’s fun to have a lot of girls around you who are just as motivated to become better players.”

One of Baratka’s first varsity appearances was in her freshman year when her older sister Abby was injured in double overtime in the WPIAL semifinals against North Allegheny.

The Rams won in a 3-2 shootout to advance to the finals.

“Sadie is awesome, and she’s played in some really big games,” Rottinghaus said. “We’re so lucky to have her as our goalie, and it’s so nice to play with her because I’ve played with those two (sisters) each year. I know how skilled they are, which makes me and everyone else really comfortable with Sadie starting after backing up Abby for two years.”

If the Rams win another title, they hope it will lead to greater success in states.

“I can definitely tell we’ve really improved this year,” Camino said. “We’re looking to be the first WPIAL team to make it far in states. We’re going for it all.”

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