Field Hockey Notebook: Week 3

What a week of SOL field hockey it’s been!

Pennsbury, Council Rock South and William Tennent are turning some heads in the season’s early weeks as the three teams share the top spot in the National Conference standings with identical 3-0 records.
The Falcons – who fell to Central Bucks South 3-2 in non-league play last week - followed their big win over Council Rock North with wins over Bensalem (1-0) and Abington (1-0). If you’re keeping track, the Falcons have won all three of their league games by identical 1-0 scores.
Rock South earned a 1-0 win over defending conference champion Neshaminy, using a goal on a corner by Sam Facciolla late in the second half. The Golden Hawks followed that with a 5-0 win over Bensalem that featured a Maria Karidas hat trick.
Tennent – thanks to a Chelsea Pritchett goal – edged Council Rock North on Monday on the heels of a 4-1 win over Abington last week. Although it’s early, the Panthers’ big win over Rock North suggests they are for real.
Neshaminy is just a game behind to top three, upping its record to 2-1 after Monday’s 3-0 win over Harry S. Truman. Truman, Abington and Bensalem remain winless in league play.
The Continental Conference race is a fascinating one with Souderton and Central Bucks South atop the standings with identical 2-0-1 records. Central Bucks East is right behind at 2-1 while North Penn and Hatboro-Horsham are both 1-1-1.
Three games into the season, the only thing that has been established in this conference is that it’s going to be a dogfight.
Central Bucks South followed its win over Pennsbury last Wednesday with a 3-0 win over Pennridge. On Monday, in a classic battle of SOL heavyweights, South and Hatboro played to a 2-2 tie in a game that saw the Hatters rally from a 2-0 halftime deficit to knot the score.
Four days earlier, the Hatters turned in an impressive performance in their 4-1 win over previously undefeated North Penn. The Maidens were hoping to get back in the win column when they faced Souderton on Monday, but the neighboring schools battled to a 0-0 tie. Souderton was coming off a 3-2 win over Central Bucks West last Thursday.
Central Bucks East defeated Quakertown 3-1 last Thursday. Erin O’Brien scored a pair of goals to lead the Patriots. On Monday, the Patriots defeated Pennridge 4-0. O’Brien once again contributed a pair of goals. The Rams remain winless in league play.
On Monday, Quakertown picked up its first league win, downing West 4-3. Jess Camburn scored all four goals for the Panthers while Jordan Walls had a pair of goals to lead West.  
In the American Conference, Wissahickon has firmly established itself as the team to beat, notching impressive 4-0 wins over both Plymouth Whitemarsh and Upper Dublin. Four different players scored goals in Monday’s win over the Flying Cardinals. Alyssa Tourdot had two goals and an assist in the Trojans’ win over PW.
The Flying Cardinals (2-1) used goals from four different players in their 4-3 win over Springfield last Thursday.  The Spartans came back to defeat Norristown 6-0.
Norristown picked up its first win of the season last Thursday when the Eagles defeated Upper Merion 4-1, sparked by the hat trick from Ashley Henrick.
PW, meanwhile, rebounded from its loss to Wissahickon to down Upper Moreland 7-1 on Monday.
The Golden Bears (2-1) downed Cheltenham 1-0 last week. The Lady Panthers (1-2) rebounded to down Upper Merion 2-0 on Monday.
And that’s the week that was in SOL field hockey.
American Conference
The top of the class – If success were measured only in wins and losses, Norristown – with its 1-4 record - might not be deemed very successful, but there’s far more to life than wins and losses on the hockey field, and in the classroom, the Eagles are winners on every count.
Consider only that senior Nikole Smith and junior Gabbie Berry both boast dazzling GPAs of 4.6. Charmaze Banks, Werkiser Taylor and Shernai Banks are right behind at 4.5, and Ashley Henrick’s 4.0 is nothing to sneeze at.
Figure out the team’s average GPA, and it’s an impressive 3.8.
“We’re very fortunate,” coach Stacie Staufenberg said. “Most of my players will never play hockey again, and you know what – they need those good grades for the rest of their life.
“Most of the players on my team will go to college, and it’s very important that they get to the next level. Schoolwork will get them there, not hockey.”
That’s not to say Staufenberg doesn’t demand a lot from her players, she does, but the Eagles’ coach – herself a former player at the University of Delaware – is faced with a daunting task trying to build a program in a district where hockey has not always been a priority.
This year’s squad includes eight seniors who have been with Staufenberg for three years on the varsity – Henrick, Smith, Shernai Banks, Kelley Cooney, Erica Scruggs, Lauren Grose, Rachel Barbish and Shannon Melito, and the Eagles’ coach has a tremendous loyalty to her players, forgoing the opportunity to see her son – Dan - play soccer in his final high school season to coach hockey.
“I was at my alumni game at Delaware last weekend, and someone said, ‘Why don’t you just quit and go watch your son play?’” Staufenberg said. “That thought has never occurred to me.
“These girls are great. They’re like my second family. They’re fun. I want to see them all the way through. They’ve matured nicely, they’ve learned what I’ve asked them to learn – self-discipline, commitment, motivation.
“They’re not always winning at field hockey, but I think they’re going to be winners at life. I don’t want to drop out of that final year of having this.”
In answer to the argument that she only has one son, Staufenberg has an immediate response.
“I’ve already built my son strong,” she said. “My coming to his games doesn’t change that.
“These girls still need my support, and I’m lucky that they respond to me.”
After someone suggested to Staufenberg she was a ‘mean coach’ for yelling at one of her players, she went directly to her team.
“I said to them, ‘Am I a mean coach?’” the Eagles’ coach recalled. “They said, ‘Mean, no. Strict, yes.’
“I’m strict about discipline, time management, commitment. Did you show up when you said you’d show up? Yes, I’m strict. Their parents might not demand that much from them, but I do.”
The Eagles picked up their first win of the season last week – a 4-1 win over Upper Merion.
“It’s important for self esteem, and all the hard work they do should pay off,” Staufenberg said. “It is like a pay check. Every now and then you deserve one.
 “I just wish we would win more games. They deserve it, but it doesn’t always happen for them. I really beat myself up over it and don’t know why they’re not producing and wonder if another coach would make them produce differently. I don’t really know.”
Talk to opposing coaches, and there’s a prevailing belief that Staufenberg is doing a remarkable job.
“What a hard worker,” Pennridge coach Jen Wolfe said. “She really works overtime with those girls, and it’s not noticed because of their record. There’s an amazing difference in their play and numbers from last year’s team.”
While some coaches might add lightweight teams to their non-league schedule to get wins, Staufenberg whose team won just two games last year, wouldn’t consider that.
 “I won’t do that,” she said. “I put games that are winnable like Ridley and Pennridge.”
The Eagles lost to both teams this year, but don’t be fooled. Staufenberg’s Eagles are winners where it matters most – in life.
Continental Conference
Bucks looking to fill the gaps - Alison Stone knew she would have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of several players who occupied the prime positions in the middle of the field.  Four players from last year’s team are playing at the collegiate level.
“I think it helps that the girls I do have had the experience of playing with those players who were really, really strong, so they know what it takes,” she said. “I knew going into the preseason that we would have a long, hard road.
“It hurts not having one or two people who really can execute when I need them to, but I’m also sort of ego free this year, which creates an interesting dynamic. I thought it was going to be hard, but it’s been a little harder than I thought replacing a couple of key players.”
Stone has her share of three-year varsity players on her squad, and she has seen some bright spots.
“My field defense is strong, and they work together well,” she said. “Erica Ochsenreither has been a player in the shadow the last three years. She’s my center back, and she’s very strong and very confident.
“She really is sort of like my Maura Hannigan this year, and I think she will step up.”
Senior Alex Donaruma played midfield last year but has been moved to the defensive backfield.
“She’s been doing an exceptional job,” Stone said. “She is also very strong.”
Senior Jess Jones is back to anchor the forward line
“She has a whole lot of speed, and what we’re trying to do is turn that speed into goals, which is something we’re working on,” Stone said. “I expect her to be another player to watch.”
Jess Ernst and Phoebe DuBell also are three-year varsity players. Ernst will see action at defense while DuBell will be a piece to the puzzle in the midfield, and it is in the midfield that some question marks remain.
“The girls are not sure who’s going to step up,” Stone said. “The last couple of games we have had a variety of girls scoring, and I think they’re seeing that they don’t have to rely on one girl to always score, and that’s going to be really good for us.”
The Bucks opened the season with a win over Pennridge and then extended Souderton to the limit before falling 3-2 last Thursday.
“It was a great game to watch,” Stone said. “I knew Souderton was going to be tough, and I was pleasantly surprised with how we stepped up against them.
“I sort of felt as though that was our test because we got a slow start (in losses to Tennent and Pennsbury). Even though we lost to Souderton, we certainly passed that test. We played very well, and they played very well. It was a good game, and it could have gone either way.”
The Bucks suffered a 4-3 loss to Quakertown on Monday night.
 “We’re starting slow,” Stone said. “But I’m really hoping if they can stick together through the tough stuff that we’re going to really strengthen as the season progresses.”
National Conference
Small Owls’ squad sticks together – Amanda Tu doesn’t have a lot of players to work with this season, but the Bensalem coach is enjoying the players she has on this year’s squad.
Just 26 players showed up for preseason tryouts, and some of the freshmen didn’t survive the heat wave. By the time preseason camp had ended, only 18 players remained, so the Owls are without a jayvee team this season.
“You know what – if it was any other year, I would be more disappointed,” Tu said. “But the group of girls I have now – I’m glad they’re all together on one team.
“They bond a lot more. In the past, we had freshmen playing on the jayvee who shouldn’t have been on jayvee.”
The Owls won a pair of preseason games over New Hope (1-0) and Bristol (3-1) but have fallen in their first three league games. Still, Tu has few complaints.
“Since preseason began, I have been really pleased with the team,” she said. “The first two games we played they have really come out ready to play in both halves.
“In our losses to Pennsbury and William Tennent, they were a little flat on their feet in the first half, but in the second half they played their hearts out. We just fell short.”
Tu lauded the efforts of defenders Alexa Ewing and Anna Kulczycki as well as goalie Chelsea Jenkins.
“Our defense has been playing excellent,” she said. “That’s what has been keeping us in the games.”
The Owls hung tough in their game against conference-leading Pennsbury before falling 1-0.
“I always tell them they should be disappointed because they lost, but they should feel proud of the fact that they kept Pennsbury to 1-0,” Tu said. “They really kept Pennsbury on their toes. 
“I think a lot of teams take Bensalem for granted. I have had these seniors for four years, and they have really matured. They came into preseason in shape. They’re more focused, more dedicated, and they’re committed. They want to win. They know what it feels like, and they want to win.”
The team is led by senior captains Kulczycki, Stephanie Hughes and Kristin Fetch, and Tu credits all of her players for their effort this season so far.
“They’re working really hard,” she said. “They really want to learn, they want to try new things. They’re focused. They really do care, and it’s nice to see that.
“A lot of them want to play at college. It’s a whole different mentality than before.”
SOS.com’s Fab Five
  1. Wissahickon (5-0) (What’s not to like about a team that just keeps scoring and winning?)
  2. Central Bucks South (4-0-1) (The defending Continental Conference champion Titans have come back strong, proving they’re the real deal with a win over Pennsbury and then battling Hatboro to a 2-2 tie.)
  3. Souderton (4-0-2) (Souderton has simply refused to lose, and the Indians will get another real test when they take on Central Bucks South.)
  4. Hatboro-Horsham (3-1-1) (Their OT loss to Souderton aside, the Hatters still look to be one of the teams to beat in the area.)
  5. North Penn (4-1-1) (Don’t be misled by the Maidens’ 4-1 loss to Hatboro. They fell behind early but came back to control play in the second half. Until proven otherwise, they still look to be one of the SOL’s top teams.)
Others to watch: William Tennent (5-1) (The Panthers made a compelling argument for Fab Five consideration with their win over CR North, but a loss to North Penn vaulted the Maidens into the fifth spot.) Council Rock South (4-0) (The Golden Hawks are one big win over a quality program away from earning a spot in the top five. They’ll be tested on Friday when they face Pennsbury.) Pennsbury (4-2) (The Falcons are showing they can play with anyone and can’t be penalized for an early-season loss to Mount St. Joe’s or a one-goal loss to CB South.)