Motivated Lady Ravens squad striving for return to state title game

GEORGETOWN – In her first season at the helm of the varsity program, Sussex Tech field hockey head coach Mia Paltrineri helped lead the Lady Ravens to the Div. I state championship game in 2017.

The Lady Ravens, after finishing the regular season with a 9-5-1 record, grabbed the No. 8 and final seed in the tournament. The girls made the championship appearance after upsetting No. 1-seeded Padua and No. 4-seeded Dover in the first two rounds of the tourney.

The Cinderella season would eventually come to an end with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Cape Henlopen High in the championship game at University of Delaware.

Last season gave the Lady Ravens a taste of the state championship, but now they want the whole thing.

Macenzie Hastings is one of Tech’s six senior girls on the roster heading into the 2018 season (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“It was very exciting and we’re looking forward to going back there,” Paltrineri said of last year’s state tournament run. “This off-season, a lot of the girls went out and did a lot of work on their own – went to camps and things like that – and we’ve made a lot of improvements to fill in the shoes of last year’s seniors.”

“It was amazing just to be with that team, we just all connected really well and to get to that point – we were the underdogs – everyone was like ‘oh, Tech’s going to go out in the first round.’ But we persevered and we all wanted to get there – and we all want to get there this year,” said incoming senior Macenzie Hastings of last year’s title game appearance.

“Going back to the state championship, you have to focus on what you can build off of,” said fellow incoming senior Morgan Johnson of her team’s focus heading into the season. “You’re going to make mistakes, but you have to leave them in the dust. We were definitely not picked to be the runner-up last year, but we did it anyways.”

Heading into the 2018 season, Tech’s strong senior class is made up of Hastings, Johnson, Bayleigh Carlisle, Alexandra Holland, Regan Sammons and Taylor Wroten.

“They are awesome,” Paltrineri said of the senior class. “They have organized things I haven’t even asked them to do and they are oriented around the team and are looking forward to going back to that state championship.”

The team’s junior class includes nine girls: Aynasti Bowden, Kayla Brady, Sadie Brittingham, Shea Brown, Adrianna Cannon, Victoria Henry, Julia Hollenbeck, Erin Kay and Alyssa Layfield.

Shea Brown, shown here during player introductions prior to a game last season, is one of Tech’s nine junior girls (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

The group of 15 upperclassmen will look to help fill some of the voids left behind by last year’s six seniors.

“We have picked up right where we left off from last season,” Paltrineri said during Saturday’s play day scrimmage at Cape Henlopen High. “So far, we have filled in well for the seniors we lost last year – we lost a lot of talent, but it seems like we’ve filled in well so far. I’m just excited for the season.”

The six senior girls have been playing field hockey together for years and believe that has helped with on-field success at Sussex Tech.

“We’ve actually all played together since most of us have picked up a stick, so we’re all just really close-knit and on the field I think we encourage each other rather than focus on the mistakes we’ve made and I think that’s really important,” Johnson said.

After losing starting goalkeeper Grace Lee to graduation in the spring, Paltrineri will turn to a junior to pick up the starting role in front of the net. She impressed Paltrineri during Tech’s play day scrimmage Saturday afternoon.

“We have Kayla Brady, a junior, in goal and she’s doing really, really well,” she said. “We expect her to keep that up during the season.”

Offensively, not much will change from 2017 to this year as many of the girls on the front line returned this year.

“Our offensive line, they’re all returning this year, so they are just going to build off of what we did last year,” Paltrineri said. “We’re hoping to be strong in the circle this year.”

It’s the back line on defense that may have had a few question marks heading into the preseason, but Paltrineri is confident with the adjustments her team has made.

“We lost two big defenders last year [Libby Baird and Madison Parker], but we were able to shift some returners around, so I think we’re going to be doing well this year,” she said.

Though the varsity and junior varsity rosters have not yet been made, the field hockey program has a combined 24 freshmen and sophomores on the tentative roster following Friday’s cuts.

There are a few younger girls who could end up making an immediate impact with the varsity roster to begin the 2018 season, and the veteran players are excited to welcome them aboard.

“I think it’s always hard for a freshman to come in and start on varsity – it’s definitely kind of scary – but I think that with the group of girls we have we’re very accepting of who’s coming in,” Johnson said. “Rather than looking at them as freshmen, we’re looking at them as goal-scorers or just a part of the team who are here to help us.”

Tech has a play day scrimmage at Smyrna High Saturday, Aug. 25 and one final scrimmage against Caesar Rodney Wednesday, Aug. 29.

The Lady Ravens will open regular season play Tuesday, Sept. 11 at Sussex Central High.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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