Cocalico aims to reload

By on August 31, 2011

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor truth.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

Hardly anyone probably remembers this but the Cocalico field hockey team started the 2010 season with just one win in its first four games.

Little did anyone know at the time but about two months later, the Lady Eagles would find themselves one win away from a State title. After their rough start, with losses to District Three heavyweights Penn Manor, Hempfield and Lower Dauphin, Cocalico righted the ship, in a big way.

The Lady Eagles (21-6 overall) swept through Section Two, going 14-0 to win their third-straight section crown. Then after a hiccup to Lancaster Mennonite in the first round of the L-L League playoffs, Cocalico went on to place fifth in the District to earn their second straight bid to States.

But it didn’t end there. Cocalico crushed North Allegheny in the first round, and then avenged an earlier loss to Hershey with a huge overtime win in the quarterfinals. A 2-0 victory over Mt. St. Joseph in the semifinals landed the Lady Eagles their first-ever State finals appearance.

Unfortunately, they came painstakingly close but fell short in the finals as Emmaus got a late goal to break a 1-1 tie and win the championship with a 2-1 victory.

Flash forward to 2011, where the Lady Eagles must replace several key players from their State finals team. Gone is First Team All-American and leading scorer Jordan Page. Gone is four-year starting goalie Haley Mitchell, a second team All-Stater. And gone are Courtney Ueberroth and Jess Lawville, two key forwards who scored both scored big goals in the post-season.

With graduation hits like that, one would think the Lady Eagles would be hard pressed to put together another season similar to last. However, Cocalico still returns six key starters, including shutdown defender Taylor Kidwell, along with talented junior forwards Carissa Witmer and Janelle High. Speedster Liza Morgan is also back on the offense while solid defenders Jordan Miller and Haley Irvine return to the fold as well.

Add to that group a group of talented newcomers, including: Carrie Sensenig, Amber Pinkerton, Taylor Esterly, Allie Stauffer, Marissa Gingrich and Julia Stauffer. All of those players should fill key roles for the Lady Eagles.

Cocalico Coach Krista Page said the strength of this year’s squad is on the back end.

"Our defensive backs have played together for the last three seasons," she said.

Because of that strong defense, Page feels confident her team can at the very least be a contender in both the section and the league again.

"We should be competitive in our section and be in the mix for a league playoff berth," Page said. "(The question is) can we score enough goals? We have some very big shoes to fill from last year’s history-making State finals team but as long as we all understand that no one is expected to ‘be’ any one of our graduated seniors and just be themselves I feel we will like our results."

Cocalico opens the season with three tough road games, beginning this weekend. Friday afternoon, the Lady Eagles open the campaign with a 10 a.m. non-league tilt at Penn Manor. Saturday, Cocalico travels to Hempfield (10 a.m.) before closing out the tough pre-season next Tuesday at Lower Dauphin (7 p.m.).

The Lady Eagles open Section Two play Thursday, September 8 with a visit from Ephrata, beginning at 4:15 p.m.

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