Lady Knights focused on scoring more in 2018

GEORGETOWN – Coming off a three-win season, Sussex Central head field hockey coach Karen Irvin has made it a priority to put the ball in the back of the net more often in 2018.

If the Lady Knights’ 7-1 scrimmage victory over Sussex Academy Thursday, Aug. 30 is any indication, Central’s offense is on the right track heading into next week’s season-opener against Sussex Tech.

“We were just looking for them to execute the things that we’ve practiced, which is basically communicating, passing and finishing – putting the ball in the net – which they did,” Irvin said of what she was looking for in the final scrimmage. “We weren’t looking for it to be the best game we’ve ever played – the heat is excruciating – so we were just looking for them to execute what we’ve been teaching them in practice.”

Sophomore Macy Layfield in action against Sussex Academy Thursday, Aug. 30 (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

In nine of the team’s 15 games last season, Central failed to score at least one goal. With more effort and dedication in practices, the Lady Knights have high hopes for the offense this year.

“Our main focus has been on scoring,” Irvin said. “All the scoring drills we’ve been doing, and we’re playing a more offensive formation, I think has really helped us. The formation has played to our strengths and we’re starting to figure out who works where.”

“Going hard at practice has made a big difference this year,” said senior Courtney Peden. “I think from last year to this year we’ve been going a lot harder and taking practice a lot more seriously, doing more running and just staying more focused and working on our passes. It has all really helped us.”

Improved team chemistry has also been a plus for Irvin’s Central squad during preseason practices.

“We took the summer and worked out a lot together. We went on runs together, we did camps and some of us play travel hockey so that’s a big part of it too,” said senior Madison Sockriter. “We’ve been doing a lot more team bonding, so on the field we’re like a family and we all work together very well.”

“I know the chemistry has gotten a lot better,” Peden said. “Freshman year we came out here and we were just a bunch of people with sticks running around and trying to figure it out, but now this year we’re really starting to figure it out and we’re really working together as a team.”

Only five of the 20 girls on the program’s roster are seniors this year: Peden, Sockriter, Ma’Ryah Hagans, MaNya Harris and Jade Taylor.

“This is my fifth year, so I’ve coached all of them since they started high school,” Irvin said of the senior class. “It’s great to see the growth that they and the program itself has made over the years.”

Central prepares to defend a penalty corner against Sussex Academy (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

The remaining 15 girls on the roster includes seven juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen.

The junior class is made up of Kylene Berna, Saige Bullock, Carly Collins, Madison Maniscalco, Brittney Martinez-Couary, Maille Ryan and Shelby Verosco.

The sophomore class is made up of Annabelle Branco, Aryanna Briddell, Abbigail Gray, Macy Layfield, Rebekah Smith and Skylar Webb.

Kianna Kelley and Bayleigh Perdue are the two freshmen on the roster.

This year’s senior class has never experienced a winning season, but Peden and Sockriter would like to help change that this season.

“We want to have a winning season this year,” Peden said. “The past couple years we’ve wanted one, but this preseason we’ve been looking really strong.”

“We’re hopeful heading into the season. I think with our improved scoring ability, we’re definitely going to win more games,” Irvin said. “I think we’re just going to take it game by game, go out and do our best every game, believe in ourselves and believe in each other.”

Central will host Sussex Tech to open the regular season Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 4 p.m.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at

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