Jessica Shellenberger’s reasons for taking the head coaching position at Manheim Township were simple enough. She lived in the school district and she already taught there, so when the coaching position was vacant, it was natural for her to fill it.
Still, it is awfully fortuitous that a Blue Streaks team that won the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One title would inherit a coach that has won two PIAA titles.
“It’s a process and I’m exhausted,” said Shellenberger, who stepped away from coaching for a few years after a 15-year stint at Donegal. “When I first coached, I was 23 and didn’t know any better.”
Bringing her experience to a team that already had some experience of its own, the first areas Shellenberger wanted to address were not speed and strength, but overall health.
“First, we had to fix up some culture,” Shellenberger said. “Now we’re developing tactically a little more, but we’re a bit behind on that.”
What Manheim Township is right on schedule for is having its players at peak condition for games.
“We focused on the girls’ commitment to fitness in the summer,” Shellenberger said. “Fitness is not the most fun part of the game, but they were running, and now they’re seeing the reward to that.”
The specific reward to which she was referring was the game Manheim Township had just completed Thursday night, a 4-0 win at Manheim Central. Calli Campagna scored twice, while her twin sister Brenna recorded an assist and a defensive save, all on their 17th birthday.
“(Shellenberger) has a completely different playing style,” Calli Campagna said. “Last year, we had a lot of dribbling. … Now, we’ve been working on quick, short passes. We’ve improved.”
Fifty years later
On the Manheim Township staff is volunteer goalie coach Mary Wright. Wright was one of the goalies on the Blue Streaks’ 1972 L-L championship team, which was also a District Three finalist. Manheim Township lost to Donegal in the district final that year.
Barons improving in victory and defeat
Everything was pointing upward for Manheim Central through its first three games of the season. Coming off a .500 season in 2021, the Barons were off to a 3-0 start this fall, beating Conrad Weiser, Elco and Hempfield by a combined 12-1 score.
Their momentum came to a quick halt in the 4-0 loss to Manheim Township, mentioned above. But their progress continued despite the defeat.
“This was a good adversity test,” Manheim Central head coach Morgan Briggs said. “How do you react after you’ve been scored on? How do to react when you lose?”
Against the Blue Streaks, the Barons were down 2-0 after one period, but answered their coach’s first question by progressively gaining more and more scoring chances each quarter.
“In order to be a successful team, you have to play the best competition,” Briggs said. “Manheim Township has had a great program over the last few years. I’m glad we could play them now.”
Manheim Central honors bus crash victims
Prior to the Manheim Township vs. Manheim Central game this week, there was a ceremony to honor 12 students from the schools who had been injured last September in a bus accident while coming home from the Lives Changed By Christ Fall Retreat. That church’s main campus is in Manheim.
Money was raised at halftime for American Spinal Injury Association, specifically at the Hershey Medical Center. Briggs said that the Manheim Central field hockey team has a Play for a Cause game each year, and because the accident affected students from both schools and caused some players spinal injuries, they felt this was an appropriate cause to contribute to.
• David Bohr is a sports correspondent who covers Lancaster-Lebanon League field hockey for LNP. Follow him on Twitter at @David_Bohr.