Hempfield has found its next girls lacrosse coach to lead the Black Knights into the start of the next decade. And it’s a familiar name. At its Tuesday meeting, the Hempfield School Board approved Claudia Ovchinnikoff as the new Black Knights’ skipper.
Ovchinnikoff spent the last two years as a first-time head coach at Lampeter-Strasburg, where she guided the Pioneers to the program’s most successful season last spring by accomplishing these program-firsts: reaching the District 3-2A semifinals, appearing in the PIAA 2A playoffs and winning a state playoff game. L-S finished 15-8 overall, the most single-season wins in program history.
L-S also went 8-3 in Lancaster-Lebanon League play and appeared in the L-L tournament each of the previous two seasons.
Ovchinnikoff’s lacrosse background extends well beyond her time at L-S. The New York native was a multi-time All-American at Temple in the late 1990s, being named the National Attack Player of the Year in 1998. She was later inducted into the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame in October 2018.
Ovchinnikoff and her husband, Manheim Township alum Ryan Middleton, lived in the Hempfield School District. Ovchinnikoff recently helped the Philadelphia-based Fantastics club lacrosse program launch in Lancaster County in late 2018 by coaching three youth teams.
Ovchinnikoff replaces the L-L’s all-time winningest lacrosse coach in Elizabeth Erb, who stepped aside a few months ago after 14 years at the helm. Erb tallied a career record of 190-98 and steered the Knights to four appearances in the L-L tournament title game, 11-straight appearances in the District Three tournament since its inception in 2009, and three appearances in the PIAA tournament.
Hempfield went 17-5 last season and was the L-L League regular season and tournament runner-up and reached the District 3-3A semifinals, falling by a goal to Wilson in the third-place consolation consolation game that decided the final spot in the PIAA Class 3A tournament.
Other hires: Ovchinnikoff is among a among a few recent coaching hires in L-L lacrosse. At its December meeting, the Penn Manor School Board approved alum Anneli Starry as the new Comets’ girls lacrosse coach. Starry just wrapped up a collegiate playing career the last four seasons at Lock Haven University, as she will now attempt to restore a once-dominant Penn Manor program that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015.
At its September meeting, the Cocalico School Board approved alum Matt Oberly as the new Eagles’ boys lacrosse coach. Oblerly is returning to the position after a two-year coaching hiatus. In his previous five-year stint with the Eagles, Oberly took Cocalico from three Lancaster-Lebanon League wins and four overall wins in 2013 to an 8-3 league mark and 12-9 overall mark in 2017, achieving the program’s most wins since 2007, qualifying for the league and District Three tournaments for the first time, and winning the program’s first district playoff game. The Eagles went a combined 7-26 the last two seasons, including 1-16 last year.
Vacancies: In addition to Lampeter-Strasburg now looking for a new girls lacrosse coach, Lancaster Country Day is still in search of a new boys lacrosse coach after the Cougars reached the District 3-2A title game last spring.