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Cocalico, Ephrata on collision course
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
Cocalico has won five-straight Section Two titles in field hockey. And, at least part of the reason for its success has been the Lady Eagles’ dominance over Ephrata during that span.
The Lady Eagles have swept their season series’ with Ephrata the last four seasons, and have won a total of nine-straight games against their rivals, dating back to September of 2008 when Ephrata won for the last time.
Is this the year the Lady Mounts, who have finished second to Cocalico in each of the last two seasons, finally get over the hump and beat the Lady Eagles?
It comes down to "belief," says Ephrata Coach Rhoda Mountz, whose veteran group which includes eight seniors opens section play Thursday at Cocalico (4 p.m.).
"My girls just have to believe they can beat Cocalico, because they are very capable of doing it talent-wise….Time will tell," she said Tuesday.
Cocalico (12-6-1 a year ago) enters the season minus a few key pieces from last year in All-Star midfielders Carissa Witmer (Hofstra) and Janelle High (Lehigh), as well as defenders Allie Stauffer (Towson) and Julia Stauffer. However, the cupboard is far from bare, and if things fall into place the Lady Eagles should be the favorites once again in Section Two.
Senior forward Carrie Sensenig, who is headed to Old Dominion next fall, heads the list of six returnees who are back in the nest. Senior defenders Marissa Gingrich and Liz Gagliano provide a solid nucleus on defense in front of sophomore goalie Emily Stauffer, who started as a freshman a season ago.
Thus far, both Gingrich (groin) and Gagliano (mono) have missed time in the pre-season, but both are scheduled to return soon. Despite their absence, Coach Krista Page said her biggest concern early on is at the offensive end.
"As we were last year, we are still struggling to score and finish offensively," she said Tuesday afternoon. "We’ve been working on that a lot in practice, and we’ve seen glimpses of that work in our scrimmages…it wasn’t very evident in our first game against Lancaster Mennonite, unfortunately. Defensively, with both Liz and Marissa being out during the vast majority of pre-season, that puts us with a brand new defense. There are no veteran defenders back there, but they did a nice job against Mennonite, because we played a very defensive second half. That’s coming along. Right now, we are also struggling with our play between the 25s. We’ve worked on it in practice and hopefully that will improve. Nut without Marissa Gingrich on the field to run things, that’s making a big difference."
Page added both Gagliano and Gingrich have been cleared to play, and should see time in Thursday’s big match against Ephrata.
As for the positives, Cocalico does have some speedy difference-makers to make another run at the section title.
"We have speed," Page said. "We shifted some people around because of the loss of those two backs to injuries. We’ve even been able to put some speed in the backfield which has helped. And (goalkeepers) Emily Stauffer and Kayla Mellinger are pushing each other hard in goal. That’s a give-and-take on any given day. I think the goalkeeping situation is pretty steady right now. We are disciplined, and I think we have some speed. It’s just a matter if we can work together."
Working together is something that needs to happen at Ephrata (13-6 a year ago), says Mountz, especially upfront where the Lady Mounts graduated all-time leading scorer Moriah Pfautz (66 career goals and 21 assists) and fellow forward Mackenzie Ruth (23 G, 22 A), who are now playing at Messiah College and St. Francis University, respectively.
Senior Brooke Overly returns up front while fellow senior and first team all-star Nicole Wilkerson (a four-year starter) and junior Morgan Weaver lead a balanced midfield. In the back, veteran defenders and returning section all-stars Emma Frees and Olivia Fagan anchor a strong corp., in front of junior keeper Katie Hammaker, a first team all-star who will be starting for her third-staight year.
"With the amount of varsity experience that we have, there is no reason for us not to be very competitive and do well this year," Mountz said. "Offensively, we don’t have a Moriah Pfautz or Mackenzie Ruth this year, so the scoring has to be a little more of an overall team effort," she said. "Our forwards are all capable of scoring, and I think we’ll see some scoring this year out of our midfielders as well. My defense is solid and I’m very pleased with them, and of course we have Katie Hammaker (a three-year starter) back in goal. It’s a well-balanced team, skill-level-wise. We just need to get sound mentally and we’ll be fine."
This past week, Ephrata went 1-1 to open the season.
Friday morning at CV, Overly scored a pair of goals and assisted on another to lift the Lady Mounts to a 4-0 victory over the Buckskins. Wilkerson and Kiersten Ueberroth also scored for Ephrata, which out-shot the Bucks, 12-5.
Ephrata followed up that effort with a downer Saturday, losing 2-0 at home to Wilson.
As for Cocalico, the Lady Eagles are out of the gates strong. They knocked off Lancaster Mennonite, 2-1, Friday as Sensenig and Gingrich both scored goals in the victory.
They followed up that win with a 5-0 shutout Tuesday at Tulpehocken.
In that one, Janelle Gomez scored a pair of goals while Emily Johnson, Gingrich and Sensenig also found the cage.
Stauffer was forced to make one save int he victory.
More COLLISION, page B-3