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Despite their youth, Warwick hopes to rise above expectations
The last time Warwick’s field hockey team played a game that counted, they were playing for the PIAA State Triple-A championship. Unfortunately, their 2-1 OT loss to Hempfield last November may go down as their most agonizing defeat in program history, having dominated the stats against the Black Knights only to fall short.
When the Lady Warriors began pre-season workouts on Aug. 13 for the 2012 season, their team looked a lot different than the one that left the Zephyr Sports Complex at Whitehall High School in Allentown last fall. Nine seniors graduated from that squad, including Alexa Charles, Emily Harting, Alyssa Manley, and Emma Rissinger, who all received All-Lancaster-Lebanon League and All-Region honors. Manley then took home First-Team All-American recognition, while Charles and Harting were named Second-Team. Others who moved on included Bethany Han, Kayla Laughman, Marissa Lutz, Jenica Miller and Jen Stipe.
This year, Warwick’s only returning starters are senior Kiersten Cepeda and junior Liz Wenger, who both played at forward at 2011 and are moving to the midfield this fall. Those two will help lead a young Lady Warrior squad into a 2012 season in which they are hoping to rise above the expert’s low expectations for them.
Lititz Record sports editor Bruce Morgan recently talked to Warwick head coach Bob Derr about his squad and the upcoming season. The following is a transcript of their conversation.
Bruce Morgan: How has the pre-season been going for you so far?
Bob Derr: I’m cautiously optimistic.
BM: Why so?
BD: You just don’t know how good the competition is that you’ve been playing. When you look at our scrimmages and stuff, we’ve done pretty well. And I know that we have a very young team and we have a super young goalkeeper, so it’s just that you don’t know until you play someone that you know is extremely top quality. Things are different when you’re playing scrimmages compared to when you play games. Friday and Saturday (non-league games at Oley Valley and home vs. Crestwood) is going to give us a good hint of where we stand and what we’re going to go up against. And then if you add Wednesday’s game with Hempfield and next Saturday with a return match with Central Dauphin, I think within the first four games we’ll pretty much know what our weak spots are.
BM: How do you make up for the graduation losses on the defensive end of the field?
BD: Pray … you’ve just got to hope that someone steps up and fills the holes, and I think that’s happening, but again, that’s why I’m cautiously optimistic because things have been looking pretty good — better than I expected at this point in time based on just simply outcomes. The outcomes that we’ve had with certain scrimmages, we’ve done well. We went against Downingtown last Tuesday and we handled them pretty easily and then the five teams we played on Saturday in a play day, we won three and tied two. So we sorta held our own and stuck in there and played well, but like I said, you’re just thinking, ‘OK, how good are these teams this year?’, until you step on the field and play when it counts. So at this time, the team has stepped up pretty good, but my biggest concern is our defense. We lost our entire defense and we lost our entire midfield. So you’re talking seven very strong players that not only controlled the game in the midfield, but also took care of a lot of defensive situations and you’ve got to replace that. And of all positions, goalkeeping is the biggest (concern) because the goalkeeper can make or break you. We’ve got three young kids, and I call them young because they’re not only young in age and grade, but they’re young at playing at this level. Are they going to be able to step up and take the heat and take the pressure and be able to compete in that, that’s just a matter of time. I’m sure like any of the players, they’re going to be extremely nervous on Friday when they step on the field and this counts. Now it’s for all the money. We just hope that they play with confidence and are confident in what they can do and get the job done?
BM: Who are the goalkeepers?
BD: The three that we have is a junior goalkeeper in Gaby Spatz, then we have a sophomore goalkeeper in Kailynne Reinoehl and our third one is a freshman, who is Megan Bomba.
BM: Will you be looking for someone to get hot and win the job outright or will you go with a rotation?
BD: Well, we just talked to them (Monday) and at this point in time, we don’t know who that’s going to be right now. So it’s a matter of who performs in practice between now and Friday is going to get that starting position on Friday. Could that starting position change for Saturday? Yeah, depending on how they perform and how they do in the game (against Oley Valley), that might change for Saturday. It’s just a matter of who is going to I think be a leader. Goalkeeping is a tough position because you’ve got to have someone who is not only good fundamentally, but is a good communicator and can organize a defense and then at the same token, lead. They’ve got to be a leader. These three are young and they haven’t had a lot of time in the goal cage as far as at this level of play other than the scrimmages that they competed in. So like I said, we’re cautiously optimistic to see what happens. It’s going to be up to the defense to try to help out the best they can to keep that ball out of our circle.
BM: Who are you looking at on defense?
BD: One of the people that are looking with a huge improvement is junior Courtney Weaver. We have moved her to center back and she’s doing really well. Last year, she was a role player. She came in and subbed out any one of the defenders when they needed a sub. But then again, she played behind Laughman, Miller and Harting, so she played behind three really good defenders. But she’s doing a great job in the center. And then senior Ericka Griffith has improved immensely. Her defense has really improved, and she’s not only a strong defender, but she’s a good leader too. Being a senior, she takes charge with the team keeping them on task and keeping them organized and she does that verbally for the team. So she’s been a great role model. The other defender right now, we don’t know. It depends on who goes where. We have two other girls fighting for that third spot and that’s Jaycie St. John, who’s a sophomore, and Casie Stief is also a sophomore. They’re both very similar players, but yet there’s a little idiosyncrasy one has that the other one doesn’t. So we’re just going to have to keep playing that out.
BM: The midfielders will have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of Alyssa Manley?
BD: She was a First-Team All-American, so that’s big shoes to fill. In the midfield, our center mid is pretty much locked up. That’s Liz Wenger. She’s been a tremendous force in the middle. She’s a good leader, she communicates well. She speaks up and she organizes the team in the midfield area and directs traffic in there. And just her athletic ability — she’s such a heck of an athlete that she can do a lot of damage in that center mid position. And then we moved Kiersten Cepeda also back from forward to midfield, so she will be on the outside. We just don’t know which side yet. It could be right or left, we’re trying to figure that out. She’s just a tough competitor. I really like having her there. And then we have two sophomores that we’re working with and that’s Noelle Kephart and Nikki Calamia. (Noelle)’s got a lot of potential and a lot of talent and it’s just a matter of developing that. She just needs experience at this level of play. Nikki has a lot of spark. She’s really quick and fast and a go-getter. She doesn’t have all the tools that Liz and Kiersten have, but she gets the job done. Her and Noelle are going to battle it out, but either one of those are going to be able to help relieve Liz and Kier when they need a five-minute rest period. The midfield is going to have to work a lot. They’re going to have to do a lot of running.
BM: How big of a risk is it moving Kiersten to midfield after the kind of year she had scoring goals last year?
BD: Yes, after scoring 26 goals? Huge risk. But I’ve got to weight the fact of, do I take a goal-scorer out of the forward line and strengthen my midfield or do I put her at forward and then she might not get the ball? This way, she will get the ball a lot in the midfield. So I’ve got to rely on my youth. We’ve got a young forward line which will be all new and we’ve got a multitude of kids that we’re looking at there. Three of the four are pretty solid right now, and that’s another senior in Autumn Hess and she’s been a tremendous treat this year. Her attitude is so positive. What a tremendous attitude and her work ethic is just go, go, go and I think a lot of that is she is just so fit. The girl can run and just not get tired. She’s going to fill one of the forward positions and we have two sophomores that saw some varsity time last year in Marleise Emrhein and Jamie Martin. So those two are probably going to be in the middle. Those two have grown a great deal. They’re both very dangerous in their shooting and ball handling, so I think we’re going to be OK. But again, that’s why I’m saying about being cautiously optimistic. We’ll soon find out — can they put the ball in the cage when it counts? And then the fourth forward position, that’s where we’re looking at a few different people. One I mentioned earlier Casie Stief, who we’re also looking at side back. She’s very versatile, so we’re looking at her. And we’re looking at junior Allie Lutz who has a little bit more speed than Casie, but Casie makes better decisions with the ball. So we’ll see how that all pans out. We’re looking at a couple other girls, but those two for the most part. And the other player I’d mention would be Kali Shelley. We’re not quite sure where she’s going to fit in, but she’s going to be one of those role players that can come in and she’s very versatile and we can put her almost anywhere on the field and let her give some time to someone that might need a little rest.
BM: As a whole, what characteristics does this team have which will enable it to be successful?
BD: I hate to use the credo from last year, but they are so connected. This group, they really enjoy each other. You don’t have groups of kids sorta separated talking to one another. They are very much together, they are very much as a group at practice and I think the key thing is no one feels threatened by somebody else. Each person is willing to support each other and encourage each other to do their very best. So that’s definitely a pleasure as far as coaching. That makes it fun. The chemistry is very good. And they have a true passion for the game and they work hard. I’ve got to just watch that I don’t overdo it with them as we get ready for Friday and Saturday.
BM: What would like to see them achieve this year? What do you think they’re capable of goals-wise?
BD: A State title.
BM: Is that the goal every year?
BD: That’s the goal every year. That’s my goal to get those kids to go as far as they possibly can, and there’s nothing beyond that. But if you’re thinking of more realistic goals, it’s just to see this team improve day-by-day and game-by-game and leave everything on the field. Don’t step off the field regretting anything. You should step off the field knowing you gave everything you’ve got and there was nothing left. If they do that, then they’re definitely going to get better.
BM: Could you see this team contending for the Section and League title?
BD: Time will tell. Do they have the potential? Yes. I think the concern is, are they going to be mature enough and strong enough in the beginning to put themselves in position to win a League title or whatever may be beyond that. I have a funny feeling that they might take some lumps in the beginning because of their youth and learning. We do the best we can as far as preparing them and now it’s just a matter of seeing where they’re going to take it from there.
BM: Does this team have a credo yet?
BD: Yes they do. It’s ‘Rise Above.’
BM: What does that mean?
BD: It means a variety of things. One and foremost. what prompted the term ‘Rise Above’ was they felt that most people are not going to expect them to do as well due to the fact that they did lose nine seniors and they lost four L-L All-Stars and four All-State players and four First-Team All-Region players and then three All-Americans. Those are huge holes to fill and people are thinking, ‘You know what, Warwick is not going to be that strong. They’re going to be young and they’re just not going to do well, period.’ And that was the main drive of the credo, that they have to rise above what people think they’re capable of doing. But it means more than that too. It means not only rise above what the expectations of others are for them, but also rise above your own expectations. Reach beyond what you think you can do and apply that in life too. You’re going to be in situations in life in which you’re going to be challenged and to do things that are maybe not appropriate. Well, you’ve got to rise above that and put yourself away from that and say, ‘I’m better than that. I don’t need that.’ There’s going to be times of adversity that you’re going to be on the field where you’re tired and exhausted. You’ve got to rise above that (and say), ‘I’ve just got to rise above whatever expectation anybody might have of me.’ More LADY WARRIORS, page B-14