GFS senior Sarah Kane (left) and SCH junior Mikaela Watson contend for ball control in last Tuesday’s non-league match. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

GFS senior Sarah Kane (left) and SCH junior Mikaela Watson contend for ball control in last Tuesday’s non-league match. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

While Springside Chestnut Hill Academy only graduated two members of its 2013 field hockey team, the stick squad at Germantown Friends found itself in a rebuilding mode at the start of this season. The difference in the number of seasoned varsity players on the two squads figured into the outcome when they squared off in a non-league contest last Tuesday at SCH.

The Tigers hung in gamely in the first half, arriving at halftime with a modest 2-0 deficit despite a good deal of pressure applied by the Blue Devils in the scoring circle.

Springside Chestnut Hill’s leading scorer, senior Allie Billock, came on to record a hat trick in the second half, rounding out a 5-0 victory for the hosts. Sophomore Maggie King accounted for both of the early goals for the Devils, who improved to 6-0.

SCH will begin to face sterner tests as league play starts this week in the Inter-Ac, where the Blue Devils struggled last fall. Germantown Friends, which left Chestnut Hill with a 3-2 record last Tuesday, also launches its league schedule this week.

GFS was the runner-up team to the Academy of the New Church in the Friends Schools League last fall, getting edged out 1-0 in the FSL championship match.

However, nine players have graduated from the 2013 Tigers, including a four-year fixture in the goalcage, Maddie Andrews. In addition, the lone freshman starter on last year’s team has transferred to another school.

Despite the many personnel vacancies that she’s had to fill, second-year coach Dana White remains upbeat.

“We do have a group of girls with solid experience to serve as a foundation,” she said. “They all came back wanting to work hard and wanting to help build the skills of the younger players.”

The senior co-captains for 2014 are Sarah Kane, a veteran field player, and Hayley Rost, who was Andrews’ understudy at goalie last fall.

“Sarah is a consummate leader and is always positive,” said White. “That’s says a lot about her attitude given all the changes we’ve been through.”

Speaking of Rost, the Tigers’ skipper said, “She had a great mentor in Maddie. Those are big shoes to fill, but she’s handling it very well.”

The other returning players from the 2013 varsity squad are senior defenders Hannah Craig and Cat McNally, and midfielder Abigail Gard and forward Carmen Turner, who are both juniors.

Senior Magda Andrews-Hoke and juniors Sabrina Song and Anita Zhang have ascended to full-time varsity status, and the roster is rounded out by sophomores Emma Lynam and Livia Pinover and freshmen Allie Lipshutz, Sydney Slavitt, and Olivia Wells.

In last Tuesday’s tilt, King got SCH on the scoreboard two minutes and 20 seconds into the contest. It would be some time before the Blue Devils would score again, though.

About 11 minutes in, Germantown was awarded a penalty corner and Pinover made the insertion from the left endline, but the play ended with the ball going out-of-bounds off the Tigers. Springside Chestnut Hill had the next three penalty corner opportunities, but could not cash in.

In real-time play shortly after the third of these corners, Devils sophomore Mason Rode drove the ball hard from just outside the top of the circle, and a little tip by King near the cage made it 2-0 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

That score stood until halftime, with GFS successfully defending two more corner plays for the home team.

SCH’s Billock, who came into the match with a total of 18 goals for the season, did not find the backboard in the opening period, but she was heard from three-and-a-half minutes into the second stanza, making good off an assist by junior Remi Filippini. The play was also costly to the Tigers in another sense, as McNally took a hard blow to a finger during the sequence, and was out for the rest of the game as the trainer attended to her bloodied digit.

As in the first half, the scoreboard took a long nap after this early goal. Billock then added a pair of late points, with 8:25 and 4:48 left to play. Rode earned an assist on the Devils’ final goal.

On a final GFS corner, the Tigers got the ball out high in the circle. They moved it laterally a few times before Gard sent a drive down through the middle, but the ball was blocked by an SCH back and then cleared out of danger.

Germantown’s Rost registered 18 saves in the match, while seven stops secured the shutout for junior Frankie Reitmeyer and SCH, which wound up with a 14-2 advantage in penalty corners.

The Blue Devils remained undefeated, while the Tigers, despite the setback, were still a game above .500.

Coach White feels that within the Friends League there will be a number of viable contenders for the title.

“There are a group of solid teams and it could be a real toss-up,” she said. “I’m not sure of everyone’s situation, though I know Westtown [a 2013 semifinalist] lost 12 seniors from last year. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out.”