At the conclusion of the Keystone State Games, Lake-Lehman coach Jean Lipski gathered the field hockey team she had just guided to a silver medal performance and playfully implored players she’ll soon face as high school opponents to back off a bit when they play her Black Knights.
Not with defending District 2 champions Wyoming Valley West and Wyoming Seminary bringing back plenty of firepower from last year’s state runner-up finishes and trying to get back some glory they felt was lost.
Not with perennial Division 2 power Holy Redeemer moving up to Division 1 to join the likes of Sem, Valley West and Lake-Lehman.
Not with Coughlin playing the final season of its stories field hockey program, before bonding with players from Meyers and GAR next year as the Wilkes-Barre Area School district consolidates into one juncture and one team.
And certainly not with the sport’s new power ranking system — which factors in strength of opponents, similar to the one used in high school football — determining the District 2 playoff field in each of field hockey’s three classes.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work to get where we want to go,” Valley West coach Linda Fithian said.
That’s for sure.
Just start with the new way to determine playoff teams and seeds — a complicated formula that, at its simplest, awards more points for beating teams that play schedules loaded with winning opponents than it does for beating competitors who play against mediocre or weaker competition.
“With the point system, it could be tough for us,” said Wyoming Seminary coach Karen Klassner, whose team will play non-league games against the likes of national powers Eastern (from Voorhees, N.J.), Sacred Heart (from Kentucky) Selinsgrove and Vestal, N.Y., which could factor into their postseason seeding. “Our schedule’s brutal.”
It may not get much easier for anyone, since Holy Redeemer — after going 24-0 while winning Division 2 the past season seasons — was moved up to Division 1, while Lackawanna Trail and Tunkhannock both dropped to Division 2.
The Royals may not go unbeaten for a third straight year while playing against bigger schools and tougher competition, but they’re up for the challenge after winning a District 2 silver medal in 2016 and finishing in the district’s final four last year.
“I’m expecting to have a few losses, but I don’t think we’ll have too many,” said Redeemer third-year coach Maura Waskevich, who went by Maura McCormick until she was married during the offseason. “We still have a strong team. We’re excited for the challenge.”
The Royals won’t have to wait long for a stern test. They host Lipski’s four-time District 2 finalist and state playoff team Lake-Lehman, which defeated Redeemer for the 2016 Class 2A district crown and again in last year’s Class A district semifinals, in Tuesday’s second game of the league season.
But at the very least, the move should stop some complaining from Class A coaches who viewed the Royals as having an unfair advantage in district seeding during the past two seasons. While Redeemer was beating up on lesser quality in Division 2 and going 12-0 to earn the district’s No. 1 seed in 2016 and No. 2 last year, Class A teams in the WVC’s Division 1 pretty much had to go unbeaten — as Sem did last season — through a 14-game league schedule. That’s because past district seedings were based solely on record.
The new power ranking system should help take care of that, but so will Redeemer’s shift into Division 1.
“I like getting the chance to play Redeemer,” Klassner said. “A lot of people felt they needed to move up, just to see if they can hang with the top division. Which, I think they will.”
More change is certainly in store for 2019, when Meyers and GAR will no longer exist in the WVC’s Division 2 and combine with Coughlin — a move that stands a very good chance to sending the new juncture out of the Class 2A ranks and into Class 3A and will make some fierce competition for jobs among players from three programs.
“I just want to see these kids get better,” Coughlin coach Colleen Wood said. “They’re going to be competing for spots next year.”
The beginning of the end starts Wednesday for Coughlin, which opens at 4:15 p.m. at Wyoming Area against Lauren Parente and a Warriors team that started 6-0 last year before faltering down the stretch.
But while junior scorers Jolene Ulichney, Abie Sorokas and the rest of the Crusaders try to make this year a super swan song for Coughlin, two powers sitting at the top of Division 1 are still bothered by how their title dreams of a year ago came to a screeching halt.
Returners Rina Tsioles, Karaline Stelma, Cameron Forgash and Sydney Rusnock are on a mission to win their second straight District 2 title and take their 2-1 loss in the 2017 PIAA Class 2A title game a step farther.
One step at a time, their coach cautions.
“It’s just a game-by-game,” insists Fithian, a recent inductee into the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame. “We’re not looking that far ahead. Last year is last year. We were a senior-laden team last year. The girls who are back are so humble. We have to keep working hard.”
Same for Sem, the defending WVC Division 1 and District 2 Class A champ which brings a plethora of key players back from its 2-0 loss in the 2017 state final, including scoring machines Kelsey Reznick, Aubrey Mytych, Alex Wesneski and Hannah Maxwell.
“I don’t think I have to preach anything. They feel they want to try to get back,” Klassner said. “To go (to the state title game) two years in a row is no easy task. I’ve told our kids they’ve got to go through our league first.
“We realize we play in one of the best conferences in the state and must go out every game and play as if it is for a championship.”
Coach: Karen Klassner, 46th season
PIAA Class: Class A
2017 record: 14-0 WVC Division 1 (1st place); 19-1 overall (1st place District 2 Class A, 2nd place PIAA Class A)
2017 postseason: Defeated Nanticoke Area, 14-1, District 2 quarterfinals; Defeated Northwest 11-1, District 2 semifinals; Defeated Lake-Lehman, 2-0, District 2 championship; Defeated Tulpehocken 10-1, PIAA first round; Defeated New Hope-Solebury, 3-1, PIAA quarterfinals; Defeated Oley Valley, 2-0, PIAA semifinals; Lost to Greenwood, 2-1, PIAA championship.
Key players lost: F Alicia Carr (Syracuse); Def. Camryn Litjens (New College of the Humanities, London, England); Def. Emily Sims
Key players returning: Sr. Def. Kate Barilla; Sr. Mid Aubrey Mytych (Penn State commit); Jr. F Hannah Maxwell (Wake Forest commit); Sr. Mid Kelsey Reznick (Duke commit); Jr. Mid Bari Lefkowitz (Northwestern commit); Jr. Mid Alex Wesneski (Iowa commit); Jr. F Julia Christian; So. G Mia Magnotta; Jr. Def. Dani Reiser; So. Mid Grace Parsons.
Key additions: Fr. Def. Anna Mozeleski; Fr. Def. Maggie Barilla
Coach’s Outlook: “Our team feels the pressure of being on everyone’s radar after a very successful 2017 season. However, we know it is a new year, and we have been working exceptionally hard in the preseason. We are looking forward to the upcoming season and we have high expectations for this group of athletes. Time will tell if we are up for the challenge.”
Coach: Jean Lipski, 35th season
PIAA Class: Class A
2017 record: 12-2 WVC Division 1 (3rd place); 15-4 overall (District 2nd place)
2017 postseason: Defeated Wyoming Area, 1-0, District 2 quarterfinals; Defeated Holy Redeemer, 1-0, District 2 semifinals; Lost to Wyoming Seminary, 2-0, District 2 championship; Lost to Newport, 1-0, PIAA first round.
Key players lost: Mid Lynea Gregory (Virginia Commonwealth), G Alicia Galasso (Quinnipiac), Mid Makayla Adams (Quinnipiac), F Madison Klopp (Mansfield), F Izzy Radel (Kutztown)
Key players returning: Sr. Def. Hunter Kline; Sr. F Katie Roberts; Jr. Def. Emma Hoats; Jr. Mid Madeline Newman Hr, Def. Mackenzie Lasinski; Jr. G Amy Supey; So. F Ava Radel
Key additions: Jr. Def. Sierra Spencer; Jr. F Alana Antonello; So. Def. Madeline Stuart; So. Def. Anika Meeker; So. F Lindsay Sayre; Fr. Mid Madison Lasinski; Fr. F Coley Leo
Coach’s Outlook: ”We have a young team, but a highly motivated group of young ladies. They want to learn and improve. Every day the coaching staff comments on their ability to grow more skilled, develop more speed, and understand the game.”
Coach: Kylie Fisher, 11th season
PIAA Class: Class 2A
2017 record: 10-4 WVC Division 1 (T-4th place); 11-5 overall
2017 postseason: Defeated Honesdale, 2-1, District 2 quarterfinals; Lost to Crestwood, 2-1, District 2 semifinals.
Key players lost: G Mindy Ratchford, Def. Bryce VanDeutsch, Def. Maria Ostrum, Mid Samantha Banks (Susquehanna University)
Key players returning: Sr. Mid Emily Farrell (Penn State commit); Sr. F Hannah Yanovich; Sr. F Grace Young; Sr. Mid Adie McClain; Sr. Mid Lauren Delamater; Sr. Def. Sydney Strickland
Key additions: Sr. Def. Alexis Lanza; So. G Amanda Puza; Jr. F Shannan Barrett; Jr. F Maddie Pertl; So. Mid Hanna Oldt; So. Def. Lexi Strobel; So. Def. Grace Letwinsky
Coach’s Outlook: “This season, we have one of the largest teams in my time at Dallas. We had a lot of girls working hard in the offseason. We hope to see that hard work transfer over into the regular season. We have a great group of seniors who are ready to lead the team and a nice group of returning players who can help fill the holes left behind from graduation. We hope to grow from every game and be in contention for districts.
Coach: Jillian Weaver, 1st season
PIAA Class: Class 2A
2017 record: 0-14 WVC Division 1 (15th place); 0-14 overall
Key players lost: Quinlan Hammersley, Laurel Hopfer, Sarah Seward, Emily Bernosky
Key players returning: Sr. Def. Grace Harding; Sr. Mid Shannon Green; Sr. Mid Erica O’Hara; Jr. F Ashley Griffin; Jr. F Sophie Burke
Key additions: So. Mid Erin Weaver; So. F Lily Fetterman; Fr. Def. Emily Weaver
Coach’s Outlook: “We are hopeful to bounce back from a winless season last year, and rebuild with the incoming group. The team has the heart and potential to have a season filled with goals and wins, of which progress is already evident.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski