Field Hockey Season Preview:

AHS season already great

Kyle Moylan Sports Editor
   While Mary Ellen McCarthy is still busy working out the kinks for the start of the season, it’s not going to exactly take Sherlock Holmes to uncover the positives.
   These are Allentown High School girls, McCarthy is coaching them and they are playing field hockey. That’s been a combination that’s worked out just fine in the past.
   McCarthy has already seen a game and a half of great field hockey in the two scrimmages. Allentown defeated New Egypt, 2-1, on Saturday before losing 5-0 at home to Eastern this past Monday.
   ”We were only down 1-0 in the first half,” McCarthy noted of the loss to Eastern. “If we can play with that type of intensity against other teams, we’ll do fine.”
   Hey, New Egypt and Eastern are two recent state champions. Even in preseason, Allentown is challenging itself to be great.
   ”I consider us rebuilding because we have some inexperienced players,” McCarthy said. “Even so, I expect to be in the mix of things. We have a long standing tradition. Because of that, the girls work hard and stay focused.”
   Allentown has seven seniors, including Michelle Najecki. McCarthy expects her “to take the lead role on defense.”
   Brianna Gaum is someone moving from offense to defense for the team. That’s the way it goes at Allentown. Everyone works hard and sacrifices and the team keeps winning.
   Brittany O’Brien, Kristy Langione and Brielle Alfieri (sweeper) are three other seniors on the defense. This is important because the one area where Allentown doesn’t have a lot of experience back is in goal. Denise Winkle is a senior that plays that position, but she has no varsity experience. Niki Barbaree is a sophomore that will be the backup goalie.
   The other senior is Rachel Scheuerman, who McCarthy is “confident will put the ball in the cage.”
   Kasie Nurko is also back at forward. She led the team with 13 goals last season.
   Shea Clemencich and Lauren Salage are two other juniors that will see time on the front line. Taylor Harvey is a junior that plays defense. Angela Scibilia is a junior that will play at midfield.
   Alicia Valko, Julie Embley and Kate Shamlian are juniors that should also help out at one point or another this season.
   Paige Weatherbee is a midfielder that played varsity as a freshman last season. Samantha O’Brien is another sophomore that should get playing time on defense or at midfield.
   Ciara Weatherbee is a freshman that scored in the scrimmage win over Allentown.
   ”We definitely do have some core players,” McCarthy said. “Goalie is where we lack experience. We’re trying to concentrate on that in practice and get the girls up to speed.”
   While Allentown does boast some veteran players, the team is being really blessed with a wonderful youth movement. Assistant coach Pam Zukowski Ladu had a baby girl earlier this month. Chris Wadja is expecting a baby boy in October. McCarthy’s baby (Clemencich) is already on the team.
   ”I hope Pam had a future field hockey player,” McCarthy noted. “Hopefully (Ladu and Wadja) will come back to coaching.”
   Beth Corson and Dana Thompson will be McCarthy’s assistants. Thompson was a player on Allentown’s state championship team in 1997.
   Allentown, which is back to Group II and will play in the Patriot Division of the Colonial Valley Conference, will open its season Friday, September 7 at Steinert.
   As always, a playoff spot and Patriot Division title are clear goals. Hey, this is Allentown and this is field hockey.