HUGHESTOWN — Losing the majority of its seniors, coupled with a new coach this season, Pittston Area’s field hockey team showed some good signs in an exhibition Wednesday against GAR.
Newly-appointed head coach Shelby Madden takes over for Caitlin Hadzimichalis, who was at the Pittston Area helm for several seasons. Madden is a Tunkhannock graduate and played field hockey at King’s College, where she became close with Hadzimichalis.
Madden, who was the Pittston Area junior high coach the past two years, said learning a somewhat new system will take some time for her players.
“We have to transition from a different style of play, but it shouldn’t be too bad,” she said. “We’ve incorporated a few new aspects and we’re all learning as we go.”
Madden has been trying to instill an attitude of unity into the team. She said she needs to see that rather than players working individually on the field.
“We’ve been working really well together,” she said. “We have a lot of talented players so that will be very helpful through the season and upcoming seasons.”
The Patriots lost eight seniors from last year’s team, including all-stars Haley Norwillo, Paige Danko and Alana Platukus. This year, however, most of Pittston Area’s six seniors have experience, including one of the team’s leading scorers, Ali Dunn.
Joining Dunn in their seniors seasons are Ariana Solano, Taylor Guarneri, Sara Butler, Shelby Gardner and Madi Osticco. Dunn, Butler and Gardner were voted captains. Dunn was 22nd in the Wyoming Valley Conference last season with 21 points. She finished the year with eight goals and five assists.
“She was one of the best scorers last year,” Madden said. “We’re looking to her to make sure we get some offense throughout the season.”
Along with Dunn, the Patriots will be looking for scoring from juniors Nina Cirelli and Bailey Jordan, who each contributed to the team last season as sophomores. They will be playing as right inner and right wings this season, and will move the ball up the field, Madden said.
Between the pipes for Pittston Area will be Gardner, who is entering her second season as primary goalie. Gardner had a .683 save percentage in WVC games last season as a junior. She made 99 saves on 145 shots.
“She has some experience at that position,” Madden said. “She’s been making some outstanding stops.”
The Patriots lost first-team all-star Norwillo, who anchored the defense along with honorable mention all-star Marissa Morreale. Filling those cleats will be Butler, who will play the center defensive position.
“She’s stepped up to the plate this season,” Madden said. “She’s helping the younger, less experienced players as they transition into varsity play.”
Also contributing defensively will be junior Mackenzie Koonrad, who Madden said has stepped up “tremendously” since losing last year’s seniors.
The Patriots will open the 2016 season Wednesday, Sept. 7 at Honesdale.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick