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Senior-laden Lady Barons hope to contend in Section 2
A year ago, the Manheim Central field hockey team got a taste of the PIAA State Double-A playoffs after placing sixth in the District Three Tournament.
Although they lost some key players from that squad which finished 13-11 overall, the Lady Barons would like nothing more than to get back to that point.
To help them toward that end, the Central girls have yet another new coach — Warwick High School and recent Temple University grad Becca Keener, who is the Lady Barons’ fifth different skipper since the end of the 2004 season. In her first year with the squad, Keener has inherited a squad with 10 seniors, and she has been very pleased with the leadership of those players.
Lititz Record sports editor Bruce Morgan recently spoke with Keener to get her thoughts about the team and the upcoming season. The following is a transcript of their conversation.
Bruce Morgan: It looks like you have a lot of seniors on the team. How much of a positive impact is that having on your team?
Becca Keener: It is a huge strength for our team. They’ve been through so much with coaches coming and going and they’ve been very adaptable and honestly, they are so open to everything I have to say and they’ve really picked up being leaders for my team. When there’s something at practice that’s going on, and even if it’s something at school that is going on, they’re the first to try to help better the team and figure everything out. And skill-wise, they’re a huge impact. They’re all very strong, so it’s been hard for me because I want to start all of them, but obviously there’s not that many positions on the field. They’re great, though. They’re a great, strong class.
BM: Who are the seniors?
BK: I have Paige Daniel, she’s usually a midfielder. Katelyn Grazan is a forward. Shenyele Groff plays mid and forward. Shelby Hontz is our right mid. Abigail Weaver is a defender and Abby Hahn is also a defender. Jesslyn Weaver is also a forward. Rachel Lapp is a quick little forward. Corissa Landis is our goalkeeper. She is awesome. She actually improved her fitness drastically once she heard about how the repeats (workouts) were going to be. She is in the best shape of her life and she is playing great right now. I’ve been hoping to help change the program and one of my things was fitness. If you get fit, then I can teach you almost anything, but if you’re not fit, you’ll be too tired to learn all of the skills and to mentally stay in the game. (Corissa) is awesome. She’s a great keeper. I’m already thinking about missing her next year. She has a great personality too — she’s one of our captains. And the other senior is Mattie Berger. She’s going to to be a forward and she’s good too.
BM: Can you tell me who you’re going to have on the field for you and how you see those various areas playing out for you?
BK: I have seniors spread out all over, which is great. My backfield, though, does have a junior and a sophomore. They’re very rising and talented, especially the sophomore, Morgan Wagner. Her sister (Cassandra) is at ODU, she went through the program as well, so she’s a very strong player. I have a junior as my point in the back, Tayler Piper, and I believe she played there last year. She’s been in the ‘D’ mix her whole career, so she’s experienced although kinda young. I have a freshman in our center mid, Jillian Wolgemuth. She does the Junior Olympics and she’s a very skilled player and I’m looking for her to be a big passer on the transfer and to not be a dribbler in the middle. I needed someone with the skills to pass the ball. Also with the mids, I have Paige Daniel. She’s a senior, I have her on the outside and Shelby on the outside, and I’ll probably have Shenyele playing a little on the outside mid and split time there. And also, Hannah (Simon) is a very skilled freshman as well, she does Simply with (Bob) Derr, so she’s picked up some great skills and I’ll have her coming in for us as well. I could really put (Hannah) anywhere, she has great knowledge of the game, but a fit freshman in the mid is always good. And then the forward (line) is looking pretty much like all seniors. Mattie Berger in the center, Katelyn Grazan on the right with Jesslyn Weaver on the left. And then my high forward, Rachel (Lapp) is a senior and she’s really fighting for that spot with Kylee Garber, who’s a junior. I had Kylee starting the last (scrimmage) and I think I’m going to have Rach start (Wednesday vs. Penn Manor). It’s a battle between them. In our practices too, they’re battling it out. And I have Tori Flick — she’s a junior as well and she will be getting some time at the right forward and some forward time. I have Erin Jury coming in at the left forward. She is very quick and very skilled. I just need her to get to the gym — she’s got to get some muscles on those arms. She’s so quick, but she’s quite small. But she’s big in heart. Another freshman, Taylor Wiederrecht is a very fast skilled freshman and she still needs to mature a little, but she’s going to probably get some time on the forward line as well.
BM: Are you confident that you’re going to be able to score a lot of goals this year with that group?
BK: I am. They are scoring machines, and I have such a deep bench — I really do. I never thought there would be such a deep bench, so with all the seniors and all the other girls working hard to try to get those spots from some of these seniors, I have a very deep bench. So if someone is not on a certain day, I have so many people that can get in there and do the job. I have girls that have improved with getting tips and touches on the ball after a shot, and I am confident in our scoring. They did a lot of dribbling last year, that kinda was the team’s style of play, and now I’ve gotten them to the passing game. It is absolutely amazing what they can do. They lay a through ball and trust that their teammate will get there and they all work hard together on team defense as well. So I can see us definitely scoring and that not being a big issue.
BM: And you’re confident in Corissa Landis as the goalkeeper?
BK: I’m very confident in her. She is just such a hard worker and has a positive attitude. She does have times where she still picks the wrong skill maybe, but I told her, ‘Even if you pick the wrong skill, if you go all out, your defense will fill in behind you and you’ll figure it out.’ So she is an incredible girl and player. She’s a very strong force.
BM: Is defense a strength overall for you?
BK: I would say our team defense, now that they’ve learned a team-style defense, I think it will be one of our strengths. We’re still maturing in it, but now that we have a press kind of set-up and we have our block ups set, (if we’re playing) our defense and double-teams and helping each other out, I think defense will really come alive.
BM: How far can this team go this year?
BK: I think we can go as far as the girls really want to go. If they push each other and if they stick together through games and work their hardest every game and come in with the attitude that they can win, then I can see us going all the way to the State playoffs.
BM: How do you see your team in the Section Two mix?
BK: I see us up there, at least in the top three, if not top two or top one. The girls have worked so hard this pre-season and they’ve really taken on the changes I’ve made. I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. If we keep improving, I can see us really being successful.
BM: Have you talked with the players about team goals yet?
BK: We do have some team goals. We’ve been discussing that from day one and we have goals that are measurable goals, like the percentage that we’re going to score on corners and the percentage of ‘D’ corners that we’re going to allow. So we’ve been having those (discussions). But our motto this year is ‘Work hard, play hard’ and we are just going to play hard the whole game, no matter the circumstance or obstacles. So that’s one of our big goals this year.
BM: How does your non-league schedule look?
BK: We actually have (a scrimmage with) Penn Manor (Wednesday), so it is a great challenge for the girls and I told them after practice (Tuesday) how we’re walking in there being confident in ourselves and not worrying about the name of the school. It’s going to be a great (test) for us because if there are mistakes and things we need to correct, a good team will show us our mistakes and allow us to change them as we progress in the season. And also, it will really show us where we stand. It will set the bar of, how can we compete with the best teams. So we have some challenges in our non-conference and I’m very happy with that and I hope to even increase the challenges as I progress coaching here. Temple (field hockey) opened this weekend with Duke and they were ranked like five in the nation, and I’m just used to playing hard teams because it makes you better. So I couldn’t be happier with our match-up (Wednesday). It might be a scrimmage per se, but I’m counting it as a game in my mind.
BM: Carlisle is usually pretty decent and you open with them on Friday.
BK: Yes, so that should be a good one for us. It’s good because they’re a team I don’t know much about, so that will be a nice challenge if we don’t really know what to expect all the time. And hopefully it will be a good game for us as well. More LADY BARONS, page B-11