Shady Side Academy field hockey counting on freshmen to help defend WPIAL title

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Friday, September 6, 2019 | 8:04 PM


Last year, the Shady Side field hockey team posted a 14-1-1 record with the lone loss coming in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

Prior to that loss, the Indians cruised to section and WPIAL titles.

The team lost three seniors to graduation.

“They were very important seniors and starters,” SSA coach Betsy Gorse said. “We will certainly miss their leadership, enthusiasm and contributions this year. This year’s team is again a young team with two seniors providing the leadership, and there’s a solid number of junior and sophomores. We have a large group of incoming freshmen as well, which is exciting.”

This year’s team will be led by senior captains Zoe Conomikes (midfield and forward) and Bella Faiello (back). Returning juniors are Annabelle Kuhn (forward/midfield), Claire Taylor (forward), Campbell Wolfe (forward), Cealy Fryncko (back) and Paige Shea (midfield/forward) and sophomores Dylan Green (midfield), Cecelia Messner (forward/midfield) and Jenny Woodings (forward/midfield).

“One other returnee who we will be counting on to step up this season and has already been doing just that will be junior Marnie McCormick (midfield/back),” Gorse said. “Juniors Ashley Chu (forward/midfield) and Brenna Fouser (back) will most likely see limited time because of injury limitations.”

“We have 12 new freshmen who have been attending preseason, which is great. Thea Conomikes is stepping up nicely in goal and Kate Nury has become a solid versatile player in the midfield. I expect a few others to get significant playing time this season as they have been stepping up in practices. This is the first season that we potentially can schedule a few JV games to keep the younger players getting playing time in order to continue to improve.”

Despite the graduation losses, Gorse is excited about the Indians’ potential.

“The returners that we have are skilled players and are coming together well,” she said. “All of our top scorers are returning. We traveled to Ohio last weekend to scrimmage a number of Cleveland teams, and that trip gave the team some positive feedback after one week of preseason. I’m looking to see if I can find a few other games with (Class) AAA teams both east and west of us.”

Gorse has concerns about the team’s youth.

“This is our second year with a roster made up predominantly of freshmen, so there is a steep learning curve for many of the players,” she said. “Our sophomores saw significant playing time last year, so we are working on continuing to develop them fundamentally as well as being smart on the field. Our juniors and seniors have been very positive and helpful during preseason in guiding the younger players.

“We also have some lingering injuries that are keeping us from having a few regular starters in place at the moment, but it is also giving us the chance to see younger players in action and see how they adapt to the faster high school game. We expect a few of the players to be back at full strength by our early games.

The Indians will compete in Division 2.

“I once again expect Ellis School to be strong competition as they are every year. We want to prepare for each game this season with the mindset that it is the most important game of the season so we will not discount any team this season,” Gorse said.

“This is going to be another exciting season for our team. I love the enthusiasm that a young team brings to every practice. Our sophomores and juniors will be the glue to the team this year. After getting experience last year, they have not missed a step in helping us prepare for this season. Our two seniors will provide strength both on offense and defense. Our goal is always to win our section and win another WPIAL championship in order to get past the first round in the state playoffs, but we know we also have to take it one game at a time.”

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