Weekly Feature

2015-09-10 / Sports

Seniors, sophomores to guide East field hockey


West Seneca East’s Carly Cronin, right, battles with an Orchard Park player for possession of the ball during the Lady Trojans’ season-opening 4-0 loss Thursday. 
Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com West Seneca East’s Carly Cronin, right, battles with an Orchard Park player for possession of the ball during the Lady Trojans’ season-opening 4-0 loss Thursday. Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com West Seneca East’s field hockey team was one of the younger ones competing in 2014, with just one senior moving on from that squad. And though the Lady Trojans only earned a couple of wins last fall, they gained valuable varsity experience along the way — experience that coach Jim Maisano hopes translates into a few more victories this season.

“I think that with the returning girls’ maturity, they’ve really started to step up their game and now … you can see a big sense of being at ease out there,” Maisano said. “They’ve adjusted to the speed of the game after getting a full season in last year, and that’s led to much more confidence.”

That confidence was on display during the Lady Trojans’ season opening 4-0 loss to defending Section VI Class A champion Orchard Park. Though one might not think so solely taking the score into account, Maisano said the game “was much closer” and “could’ve easily ended 2-1 either way.” The Lady Quakers were just ruthless in taking advantage of East’s mistakes, and bounces that went Orchard Park’s way failed to do so for East.

“Orchard Park is no joke, but we were a couple of bounces away form making the game a lot more competitive than it would’ve seemed by the score alone,” Maisano said. “Their goalie must’ve had about a dozen saves and robbed us a couple of times. I was very encouraged by the girls’ effort. We played like we were at midseason form last year.”

As was the case against Orchard Park, East will be counting on its senior leadership and strong core of returning sophomores to have major impacts for the squad this year.

Seniors co-captains Carly Cronin (midfield), Hailey Whitney (attack) and Rebecca Kroll (defensive sweeper), along with fellow senior Lexi Orzech (midfield), have all been playing at the varsity level since their freshmen campaigns. Maisano noted that all four “have played with a lot of good players” during their respective careers, but that it’s now their turn to shine — and, with Orzech specifically “really coming on for us at the end of the season last year,” Maisano is hoping she can be an even bigger factor in 2015.

All but one of the seven freshmen who started for East last year, meanwhile, are back and “looking even better with a year of maturity under their belts,” Maisano said. Attackers Jenna Loomis and Nicole Harris will be looking to fill the net on offense, while Anilese Kelly will look to prevent the same from the opposition on defense. Kara Sztaba (defense), Claire Powers (midfield) and Gabby Catlin (midfield) are also “looking really good during practice,” according to Maisano.

Kelly and Sztaba will receive help in the back third from returning junior Azure Pitts, whose “athleticism should really help us out,” Maisano said. The play of East’s entire defensive unit will be crucial in helping freshman goalie Maddie McCarten get comfortable in a varsity net. Mc- Carten, who was a forward for the modified team last year, used her ice hockey goaltending skills to come up with “eight or nine really good saves” against Orchard Park, which Maisano called “a really nice performance for a debut in that spot.”

“I think as she gets more and more comfortable, Maddie’s ceiling will be nearly unlimited,” Maisano said.

Fellow freshman Sadie Smith, meanwhile, brings a field hockey pedigree — not to mention some pretty good skills — up from the modified team, and will be one of the heavy hitters Maisano is eager to see get to work this year.

“You can tell Sadie’s had a stick in her hand for a while,” Maisano said. “Her aunt is the head coach at Lancaster and her mom played there too.”

“I think we have a lot of girls who can put the ball in the net this year, and with the heavy hitters we have on the team, we should be able to clear the ball down the field pretty quickly,” Maisano said. “We have girls who can clear the ball from one side of the field to the other, and I think our athleticism in general should help us protect Maddie in goal.”

East (0-1 overall) was slated to resume play Wednesday at Lancaster, but information about that contest was not available at press time. The Lady Trojans will finally play at home for the first time Friday when they host Starpoint.

“It’s easy to say we want to have more wins this year, but I’d like for us to aim for at least a .500 record — from there, we’ll see how much we can improve,” Maisano said. “We have so many young players with experience now, so I think our ability to improve is greater. We’re athletic and very aggressive as a group, but sometimes we tend to be overaggressive. If we can just stay focused on the ball — we missed some chances the other day at scoring because we got a little overexcited — I think we should be OK.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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