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Three schools have new coaches

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    Palmerton’s Sayler Burke races between Northern Lehigh’s Amber Cieri (left) and Olivia Romig (right) during a game last season. All three players will be key returnees for their programs this season. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO

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    Meara Hanyon will be a key returnee for Pleasant Valley this season. RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO

Published August 30. 2018 03:36PM

There will be a new look for several area field hockey teams this season as Lehighton, Pleasant Valley and Palmerton all will have rookie head coaches.

NORTHERN LEHIGH

FREW’S LEGACY … Northern Lehigh head coach Jessica Frew enters her 20th season as head of the Bulldogs’ program. She brings an overall record of 160-129-13 to the table. Her club was 9-10 overall, and reached the District 11 playoffs season. “I love the sport, I love to win, and I love to see success in players,” Frew said.

EXPLOSIVE … Jada Mills will be one of the Bulldogs’ top offensive weapons as she returns after scoring 13 goals during her sophomore campaign last year. “If you get her in an open field on a sprint it’s hard to catch her,” said Frew. “She’s extremely athletic and talented. She’s very long, if you give her any room, she’s going to take off running.”

FOUR’S COMPANY … Northern Lehigh will have eight returning players with varsity experience, including four seniors. The seniors are Madison Posivak (seven goals, 11 assists), Amber Cieri (eight goals, six assists), Olivia Romig (three goals, eight assists), and Rachel Nonnemacher (two goals, one assist).

YOUNG, BUT READY …Frew has a big freshmen class that will see a ton of action on the pitch. “We are looking for them to elevate their level of play,” she said. “We’re going to look to them for their athleticism. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with their efforts. Field hockey has become a year-round sport, just like everything else. It’s a three-season sport. In the winter, a lot of the girls play on travel teams, and in spring, we prep for summer leagues. Then we’re in summer leagues in Whitehall and at Bethlehem Catholic. They have put in the time, and it shows in their performance.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE … Frew gave much praise to her defense. “I’ve got some really great backs,” said the Northern Lehigh coach. “Hailey Evans has the ability and work ethic of a Division 1 player. Defenders never get the glory when it comes to actual statistics.” Look for Evans and Maddie Cunfer to have big roles on defense.

LEHIGHTON

QUALITY COMPETITION … Lehighton, playing independently, always has a loaded schedule. First-year head coach Vanessa Rimbey explained that playing big schools and quality teams could benefit her squad. “We’re playing all different parts of the spectrum in Pennsylvania,” she said. “We’re up north, down south, we’re all over. A lot of our girls are getting into club hockey and playing all year-round. They’re getting to play against different styles of play, and it’s good to have a stick in their hands all of the time.”

BIG SHOES TO FILL … The Tribe graduated both Maura Phelan (American University) and Lauren Marks (Slippery Rock University). The Indians will look to collectively replace that talent on offense and defense. Look for Olivia Frendt, the senior captain, to step into a huge role defensively. “We’re really relying on her on the back end,” said Rimbey. “We’ll have other people step up to be leaders and score, such as (senior) Gabriela Szozda.”

THE TIME IS NOW … Freshman Shelby Heater will get an early opportunity to make an impact in the cage. “Big things to come for her,” Rimbey said. “She has really stepped up.”

LOOKING TO MAKE PLAYS … Senior Makenzie Hoats will aim to frequently find the back of the cage this season. “She’s our forward-striker,” Rimbey explained. “She’s definitely the drive on the front-end with her speed.”

THE HUB … Look for Karissa Hough to be all over the field for the Tribe. “She plays a lot of club and outside hockey,” said Rimbey. “She was selected for the Under Armour select game, which is pretty much a college showcase in front of a lot of D1 colleges. She’s our hub. Everything revolves around her. She’s just dynamite and super fast.”

PLEASANT VALLEY

TALENTED SENIORS … The Bears bring back six seniors, four of whom are actively being recruited by college field hockey programs. “While transitioning to a new coaching staff and philosophy can be tough, they have managed to apply a lot of the new concepts to make their game play stronger,” said first-year Bears’ coach Jill Dorn

THE CORE … The midfield will be a strength for Pleasant Valley in 2018. “Trisha Dominick and Meara Hanyon are both veteran dominant players in the midfield,” explained Dorn. “Morgan Frantz leads our defense, with junior goalie keeper Emma Strohl. Julia Butchkoski is a speedy forward-line player. Seniors Anna Henriksen-Shea and Shannon Carr have strong varsity experience.”

LAST YEAR … In 2017, PV posted an 8-9-1 overall record.

BEING OFFENSIVE ... Dorn expects Dominick and Hanyon to do the brunt of the scoring in 2018.

REINFORCEMENTS … Joining Dorn’s squad will be a host of newcomers, including Lexi Thomas, Briella Kish, Lexi Neri, Viktoriya Georgieva, Kayla Charles, Ashley Rundle, Gianna Iandoli, Nikol Smale, Arianna Mulligan, Sophia DiFusco, and Jillian Donatelli, who will all aim to see playing time. “They have an eagerness to learn and are doing a good job at acclimating to one another,” said Dorn. “There is an even split of players who have varsity experience, and we are depending on those who do not have any varsity experience to step into new roles.”

NORTHWESTERN

IMPROVEMENT WANTED … Despite a record that was a shade under the .500 mark (8-9-1), the Tigers saw their season extend into the postseason last year. They head into this season with the motivation to improve on that mark. In order to do that, head coach Lissa Opolsky will have to replace five senior starters, and nine seniors in total. “We are looking forward to a fun and competitive year as we welcome a lot of young players to the team,” Opolsky said. “We are working hard to gel, and we work hard for one another. Many of the girls have been playing in the offseason, so we are looking forward to being very fit as we enter the season.”

GONE, BUT STILL PLAYING … Midfielder Shaelin de Wit and defender Danielle Schmidt have taken their talents with them to the college level. De Wit is playing at Molloy College, while Schmidt is taking the field at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

OFFENSIVE MINDED … Sydney Derr and Rachel Koerner will be looked to take on a brunt of the offensive attack for the Tigers and also provide leadership. “As a young group with only four seniors, we will need to work together to find ways to make things work on the field,” Opolsky said. “Each situation will be a learning experience, and we are hoping that becomes a positive attribute to our team.”

SPLITTING TIME … Opolsky will have the benefits of having two talented goalkeepers on her roster as she welcomes back Taylor Page and Alena Smargiassi, who both enter their senior seasons. The talented pair have both already decided where they will play field hockey following graduation. Smargiassi will play for the University of Connecticut, while Page will take her talents to Slippery Rock. “They have both committed to play at the next level next year,” Opolsky said. “They have had a unique experience as they are both very talented, but play the same position. They both have dealt with it very well.”

PALMERTON

FALLING SHORT … A year after making its first District 11 tournament appearance in a long time, the Bombers (6-11-1) failed to make it back-to-back appearances a year ago.

BACK AT IT … Seniors Sayler Burke (midfielder), Allyssa Frantz (defense) and Payton Lesher (defense) return with the hopes to make it back to the postseason in their final season at PHS. Junior Abby Everett (midfielder) should also be a key contributor.

LOOKIN’ TO MAKE SOME NOISE … Junior Emily Recker (forward), sophomores Jillian Frank (forward), Emily Baumgardt (forward), Emily Butz (forward), Abby Reis (defender), Delaney Frank (defender) and Megan Serfass (midfielder) and freshman Erin Kistler (midfielder) are looking to make their mark.

YEAR-ROUND … A number of Bombers are now playing field hockey outside of the high school season. “This is the first time in a while we have multiple players on club teams in the offseason, which helps move away from just needing to worry about the basics. We can now focus on more technical mobility and strong stick skill,” said first-year coach Patrick Frank. “Our team has no gaps in the formations which allows us to utilize the entire field all day long.”

STARTING YOUNG … Frank plans on giving the “future” a chance to earn some varsity minutes. “I am bringing in a freshmen class that has some strong players that will add tremendous value to the varsity level over time,” Frank said. “I am excited to see them implemented into the system.”

SOARING HIGH … Frank has his thoughts of where the talent he has on his roster can take the Bombers this season. “I have high expectations for the team and the girls know it. They have all bought in to working hard and communicating well,” said Frank. “They will be rewarded with a great season ahead. Playing as a team and keeping everything positive is what gets you into post season play. I expect Palmerton field hockey to be noticed this year for putting out a good product on the field .We look forward to the challenge ahead.”

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