Leadership is a quality often sought after by high school coaches when assembling a varsity roster. When field hockey coach Linda Decker looks out on the field, she sees a host of leaders ready to take the team to new heights.
That’s what happens when you have the luxury of returning eight senior starters.
Captains Sydney Ponto, Rachel Krott and Claudia Therault highlight a group of nine seniors who are hoping to not only return to the South Jersey Group 2 title game, but win it.
“The seniors are very hard workers and a tight-knit group,” said Decker, before adding, “and they are pretty darn talented.”
Krott, who is the team’s most decorated midfielder, and Ponto, who possesses one of the hardest shots in the area, were both captains as juniors, so the role is hardly new.
“We didn’t have a lot of seniors playing last year, only three,” Decker explained. “The leadership was a little senior and a lot junior, now they are seniors and the leadership is there.”
Also back in the starting line is Claudia Theriault, Justine Oldt, Nina Mascali, Amanda Hojnowski, Brooke Brown and Maddie Wascko. Dahlia Van Dorick is back in the cage for her second varsity season.
The veteran cast has Decker feeling good about the team’s chances heading into this week’s opener, but she stops short of making any predictions. Decker feels she won’t know exactly how good the team can be until it is matched up with top competition.
Two teams that fall into that category are Haddonfield and Collingswood—the two Colonial Conference rivals combined to go 5-0 against West Deptford last year, including . If ever there was a season for the Eagles to leap ahead of the Bulldawgs, it is this year, with Haddonfield having graduated several key starters and West
Deptford returning so many pieces.
“I think they are very much ready to take that next step,” Decker said. “They are much more confident this season and they know they are capable of playing well.”
Below is a look at the 2012 West Deptford field hockey team.
Coach: Linda Decker
Last year: 14-5
Returnees: Sydney Ponto, Rachel Krott (sr.); Claudia Theriault (sr.); Justine Oldt (sr.); Mia Mascali (sr.); Dahlia Van Dorick (sr.) goalie; Amanda Hojnowski (sr.); Brooke Brown (sr.); Maddie Waschko (sr.); Torrie Plaese (jr); Jen Dean (jr.).
Promising newcomers: N/A.
Team to beat: Haddonfield, Collingswood.
Outlook: With eight starters back from a team that reached the South Jersey finals last year, the Eagles should once again compete with Haddonfield for both the Colonial Conference and Group 2 title.
Three storylines to follow:
–Which younger players will break through? While bringing back eight starters is great for team-chemistry, it does not leave open room for many new faces. Decker said the team has a few younger girls that have shown promise in the preseason, but it will be hard for any of them to see significant playing time in the early stages of the season. Time will tell if an underclassman can show enough in limited action to crack the starting lineup at some point in the season.
–Van Dorick in year two. In her first year as a varsity goalie, Van Dorick thrived in 2011, posting 10 shutouts. If the preseason is any indication, Van Dorick could be in for an even better senior season.
“Dahlia looks real good,” Decker said. “She was our starter last year, so she is well-practiced. Dahlia is a good leader with all the goalies. I think the confidence is there that wasn’t there last year.”
–Increasing scoring in big games. Even against opponents such as Haddonfield and Collingswood, the Eagles’ defense never looked overmatched. In fact, the team never allowed more than two goals in a game all season. However, in the five losses to those Colonial powers, West Deptford managed a total of just three goals. If the offense can produce a little more against top competition, the defense—even with the loss of Deanna Szymborski to graduation—has more than enough talent and experience to turn one or two goals into a win.