After watching Team USA compete over the summer, it’s time for high school field hockey players to get back on the field.
The Lancaster-Lebanon League season officially got underway with a handful of games on Friday. Here are five things to keep an eye on as the season gets into full swing this week.
After four seasons of racking up goals en route to a national record, Donegal’s Mackenzie Allessie has graduated and moved on to Ohio State — and Team USA. But she’s not the only scoring threat the L-L will be missing this season.
The regular season scoring leaders from all three sections have graduated, including the top four scorers from Section One in Penn Manor’s Emma DeBerdine (28 goals, 31 assists), Bri Harsh (18 goals, 19 assists) and Gabby Bitts (20 goals,12 assists), and Cedar Crest’s Hanna Lewis (25 goals, 2 assists). Lily Saunders (32 goals, 18 assists) finished her senior year second in Section Two behind her Donegal teammate, while Northern Lebanon’s Carrie Shuey (18 goals, 15 assists) claimed the top spot in Section Three for the second consecutive year.
Five new faces will be patrolling the sidelines, including a few familiar to the league.
Octorara and Lancaster Catholic turn to alumni, with Kirsten Pointek taking over for Jalisa Torres at Octorara and Abby Henry moving from the junior high team to lead the Crusaders’ varsity squad after Megan Barben.
While Kelsey Thorley takes over defending Section Three champion Elco from Lisa Kercher, Manheim Township will keep it in the family with Maci Langone stepping in for her sister Samantha Spanos. Both sisters played at Lampeter-Strasburg, with Langone continuing her career at Millersville before serving as a Blue Streaks assistant coach last season.
Perhaps the biggest change comes at Donegal, where Jess Shellenberger capped off 15 years as head coach by leading the team to its second PIAA championship. Replacing her on the sidelines is Amanda Janney Misselhorn, who played at Wake Forest before coaching in the college ranks at Temple and Indiana.
While there have been a lot of changes both on and off the field, there’s one thing that remains the same: the L-L’s strong postseason showing.
In the past five seasons, Lancaster County has had at least nine teams qualify for the District Three tournament and at least three advance to states. In that span, L-L squads have won a combined six district and four PIAA titles.
Last year saw Northern Lebanon reach districts for the first time in 11 years and Garden Spot clinch its first berth in six seasons. Expect area schools to continue the trend this year as Lancaster County continues to live up to its reputation as a “field hockey hotbed.”
After years of struggling to field a varsity team, Pequea Valley will no longer have a field hockey team. The Braves forfeited the 2016 season due to low numbers, playing just a JV schedule, before winless seasons each of the last two years. Section Three will now be down to eight teams, drawing it even with Section Two, while Section One fields seven teams.
The league playoffs start on Tuesday, Oct. 15 with doubleheaders at Donegal and Penn Manor starting at 5 p.m. The semifinals doubleheader will be on Thursday, Oct. 17 and the final on Saturday, Oct. 19, both at Conestoga Valley.
Teams will have until Oct. 16 for games to count toward the District Three power rankings, with the first round being held on Wednesday, Oct. 23 and the championship and PIAA qualifying games on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Milton Hershey’s Spartan Stadium. The state tournament will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 5, with the championship games set for Saturday, Nov. 16 at Whitehall.