The Mount St. Joseph field hockey team’s senior co-captains (from left) Millie Stefanowicz and Dana Scott. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

When field hockey practice began at Mount St. Joseph Academy began last Monday, the small number of seniors and a large turnout among the 10th-graders indicated that third-year coach Christina Post will be sending out a young squad for the 2013 campaign. However, the MSJ mentor is quick to point out that experience is not lacking even among the youngest prospects, since most of them have come out of strong grade school programs and have been playing a lot of club hockey, as well.

The Mount is coming off of a 19-5 overall record in 2012, and a second-place finish within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies. The Mounties ended up fifth in the District 1 Class AAA tournament, and in the first round of the state tournament they lost, 3-1, to ever-powerful District 11 champion Emmaus High School. Later, Emmaus lost an overtime match in the semifinal round to eventual state champ Lower Dauphin.

Graduation last spring claimed a relatively modest total of four seniors from the Magic’s 2012 roster, but all four were key contributors and three of them are now playing at the Division I level in college. The Mount will also be missing one of its best young defenders in Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate Eliza Ewing; back problems will prevent her from playing throughout what would’ve been her sophomore season.

Fortunately, one of just three seniors on this year’s team will be stationed in the goalcage; Christina Black has started since she’s been a sophomore and is coming off a very successful junior season. The two team co-captains are her classmates, defender Dana Scott and midfielder Millie Stefanowicz.

The junior class is larger, and a number of the 11th graders have been varsity regulars since they were freshmen.

The returning varsity players in this group are forwards Katie Fitzpatrick and Stephanie Mahoney, mids Katie Maranski and Chrissy Pascali, and defender Adrienne Pero.

Along with NFA alum Ewing, Taylor Gray was an impact player as a freshman in 2012, and she is returning in a defensive role. She will be kept company by more than a dozen other sophomores who could challenge for positions as starters and key reserves.

Most years, the MSJ sticksters are divided into varsity and JV teams at the end of the first week of practice. This time, Coach Post realized she needs more time to make those decisions.

“There is so much talent in the sophomore and freshman classes that it’s going to be very hard to draw the line,” said the Magic’s skipper, who says she’ll probably make the call following this Friday’s opening scrimmage with Archbishop Carroll. “I very impressed with the skill level of a lot of these young girls, and I’m happy with the effort I’m getting from the entire group.”

In addition to dealing with the vacancies in the player line-up from last year, the Magic have had to replace popular assistant coach Sharna Shuford, who departed after six seasons to accept a full time coaching and teaching job in Virginia.

The new junior varsity coach (and varsity assistant) is Emily Labowitz, a Main Line native who played at the scholastic level for Lower Merion High School. Earlier this year she graduated from Kutztown University, where she also played hockey and was the Bears’ leading goalscorer in her junior season.

New varsity assistant Chris DePaul is a graduate of Springfield High School, and he participated in the sport at the club level, although in the U.S. the opportunities for men in the sport are certainly more limited than those for women. For several years he has been coaching club players both at the Jersey shore and in the comprehensive program run by the Whitpain Recreation Association.