Young Shady Side Academy field hockey team in midst of rebuilding year

Saturday, September 17, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Four-time defending WPIAL Class A field hockey champion Shady Side Academy finds itself looking for some offensive punch.

Goals have been hard to come by so far this season for the Bulldogs, but veteran coach Betsy Gorse feels her young team can contend soon.

Shady Side lost six players from last season’s WPIAL title team and has been shut out four times thus far in the early going. Among the graduated are CeCe Messner, Marnie McCormick and Jenna Woodings — all-WPIAL players from 2021.

“The five returning starters we have are strong players, but we’re really a young team,” Gorse said. “Plus, we’ve had a couple injuries and a few folks who are basically learning and who are basically new to the high school level.”

The section opener was a 2-0 loss to The Ellis School.

Gorse has purposely scheduled a tough nonsection slate that includes last year’s WPIAL champions Pine-Richland from Class 3A and Penn-Trafford from Class 2A. The Bulldogs own an early victory over Oakland Catholic, 3-0.

One key returnee is senior goalkeeper Thea Conomikes, who shut out Aquinas Academy, 1-0, in last year’s WPIAL final and kept Lancaster Mennonite off the scoreboard in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs until the final minutes of play. Her performance netted her a spot on the all-WPIAL team.

“She’s been tremendous for us, protecting the house really, really well,” Gorse said. “She’s a strong presence and gives the rest of the girls confidence.”

Also back is another all-WPIAL selectee, midfielder Kate Nury, a team captain along with Conomikes.

The Bulldogs started the season with 21 active players on the roster and two injured athletes.

Other players to watch are junior midfielder Sydney Birchard, junior forward Megan McSorley and sophomore forward Mary Boyd Barker. Another returning player is junior forward/midfielder Alexa Karet.

Said Gorse: “We realize we’re the ones with a young group, so we’re working hard and that’s all we can ask. It’s going to require a lot of work and we know that.”

Next up is a trip to Ohio’s Western Reserve Academy. Several years ago, Western Reserve had a Saturday play date and Shady Side traveled there for a scrimmage. Gorse said they reached out again this year because, with only four Class A WPIAL teams, Shady Side has a number of holes in its schedule.

Western Reserve will return the favor to Shady Side on Oct. 14 for homecoming, where a variety of Bulldogs teams play for returning alumni on Friday and Saturday. The football team will play a traditional Saturday afternoon game against Valley while field hockey will take center stage on Friday night.

Gorse is pleased to be assisted this year again by Jenna Schwenk and volunteer coach AshLeigh Sebia. A first-year coach, Sebia played for Boston College.

Despite this year’s slow start, the future is bright for Shady Side field hockey. There are 20 girls in the new, middle school program serving grades 6-8.


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