by Tom Utescher
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy fans turning out for the start of the 2014 field hockey seasons will see a lot of familiar faces. Coaches Meg Cipolloni and Katie Mersky are back for the Blue Devils, and so are most of the varsity players from 2013. Two seniors from last year’s squad have graduated, and one current senior chose not to play this fall.
The 2014 squad will be led by four captains, seniors Allie Billick (already a captain last season) and Carlin Rode, and juniors Remi Filippini and Mikaela Watson. The seniors have not yet firmed up their plans for college, while Watson, who was hampered by injury last hockey season, has verbally committed to play lacrosse for Stanford.
The 11th-graders make up the largest class contingent for the Blue Devils. In addition to the two captains, the juniors are returning starting goalie Frankie Reitmeyer, Iman Floyd-Carroll, Lily Glendinning, Lexi Prochniak, and Madi Saltzman (SCH’s premiere softball pitcher). A new addition to the class is Caroline Roncolli, a transfer from fellow Inter-Ac League member Agnes Irwin.
Another recent arrival at SCH is a student athlete from Germany, sophomore Hanna Klas. Among her new classmates on the hockey squad are varsity veterans Morgan Fitton-Zellers and Mason Rode (sister of Carlin). Other 10th-graders in the mix are Maggie King, a forward moving up from the 2013 JV, and Audrey Hinchey, a former Norwood-Fontbonne Academy goaltender who was sidelined by injury last fall.
When independent school teams engage in early-season tune-ups against schools that are members of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, these sessions must be considered scrimmages until those member teams are allowed to play an official game. Since the PIAA fall sports starting date was last Friday, August 29, SCH’s skirmish that morning against visiting Lower Merion High School was considered an official game, and the Blue Devils opened the 2014 season with a 1-0 victory.
An athlete who is familiar to hockey players on this side of the Schuylkill turned up along with the visiting Aces. Samantha Bruttomesso-Clarke, who was already a starter on the Germantown Friends School varsity as a freshman last fall, has transferred to Lower Merion.
The first period ended with a pair of zeroes still on the scoreboard. On a penalty corner about seven minutes in, the Blue Devils’ Billick shot the ball into the right post of the visitors’ goalcage. Soon after that, King carried the ball up the left wing and into the circle, but had a shot deflected out over the endline by a defender for the Aces.
The Blue Devils transported the ball upfield fairly effectively, but they could have done better if they’d made more of an effort to get the ball over to the right wing (the stick side for most players) and utilize the considerable skills of Filippini. They began to do this after halftime, and were awarded several corners as the second period unfolded.
The lone goal of the game didn’t come off a restart, though. SCH brought the ball through the midfield, King took it into the circle, and her pass to the front of the cage set up the goal by Billick with 11:27 left to play.
Lower Merion attacked aggressively just after it fell behind, quickly earning a penalty corner. An Aces forward high in the circle received the insertion and tried to shoot, but SCH’s Watson blocked the attempt and her classmate, Prochniak, took the ball out of the circle on the left side.
With two minutes remaining, the home fans got a scare when Lower Merion sent the ball bouncing across the mouth of the SCH goal, but none of the Aces was in position for a tip-in and the ball kept on going past the far post.
Before long, the scoreboard horn signaled the first SCH victory of the 2014 season. Reitmeyer made six saves in goal for the Blue Devils, who took four penalty corners to Lower Merion’s one.