SCH field hockey seeks challenges on big stage

by Tom Utescher
Posted 9/27/23

The field hockey team at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy last week was pitted against the number one team in the country.

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SCH field hockey seeks challenges on big stage


For the field hockey team at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the level of competition ramped up significantly last week, with one of the Blue Devils' three games pitting them against the number one team in the country.

Tuesday brought the 2023 Inter-Ac League opener against Agnes Irwin School. The Devils split in their two games with the Owls in 2022, and last week the teams tied, 2-2, on Irwin's home turf. The following day SCH hosted Hill School, the top-ranked team in the nation, and succumbed 6-1. This was actually a slightly better result than two other very good teams had achieved against the Rams; Hill had defeated Villa Maria Academy, 6-0, and defending Inter-Ac champion Episcopal Academy, 7-1.

One indication of the rise of the SCH program under head coach Emilee Ehret is the invitation extended to the Blue Devils to participate in an elite showcase event last weekend, the Max Field Hockey High School Invitational. The event included 61 teams from 12 different states playing at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, and in a Friday match-up Springside Chestnut Hill lost in overtime, 2-1, to Phillipsburg (N.J.) High School.

The Devils emerged from the grueling week of competition with an overall record of 3-2-1.

In Tuesday's road game against Irwin, senior Maddy Caliendo scored the Blue Devils' first goal off an assist by classmate Kerry O'Donnell. However, O'Donnell was later injured in a collision when another player fell on her, causing what was thought to be a hyperextension of the elbow joint. O'Donnell, who will sign with Penn State along with her twin sister Riley, would be out of action for both the Hill and Phillipsburg games.

Irwin led, 2-1, late in Tuesday's tilt, but with 18 seconds left Riley O'Donnell delivered an assist to junior Veronica Goettner, with Goettner scoring to create a 2-2 tie which held up through an overtime period.

The other set of twins on the SCH team are the Conlans, Devyn, a forward, and Colleen, the Blue Devils' goalie (both have committed to UMAss). In the Irwin game Colleen was credited with 17 saves.

The junior keeper amassed 35 saves the following afternoon in the face of the Hill School onslaught. In field hockey, Hill has benefitted from being a boarding school, with eight players on its 2023 roster coming from out-of-state.

Springside actually kept a clean sheet against the Rams during a 0-0 opening quarter, but two minutes into the second period Hill got on the board with a goal by junior Riley Savage, a native of Charlotte, N.C. The visitors led 3-0 at the half, then raised their advantage to 5-0 over the first nine minutes of the third quarter.

SCH had a fair amount of ball possession in the midfield, but did not get into the Rams' circle very often. Late in the third round, though, the Devils penetrated toward the cage and Goettner set up a goal by junior Kira Vakil with 2:19 to go in the quarter.

Hill added its sixth goal in the fourth period, with an apparent seventh goal in the final seconds being nullified by a stick violation.

At the elite event in Conshohocken on Friday SCH took on Phillipsburg, which belongs to New Jersey Group 4, the classification for the highest-enrollment public schools. Phillipsburg is located directly across the Delaware River from Easton, Pa.; the school's athletic nickname is the Stateliners.

The Blue Devils controlled much of the play in the first quarter, while the 'Liners asserted themselves in the second. It was an even match-up, with Phillipsburg finally breaking the ice by scoring with 3:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Which not much time left to them, the Devils pushed up the field. From out along the right endline, Devyn Conlan sent a hard cross over toward the goal. No one got a touch directly in front of the cage, but when the ball kept rolling outside the left post, senior Madison Freeman fired the ball back into the cage.

The game was now tied with 2:25 to go in regulation play, and eventually the contest proceeded into a 10-minute, sudden-victory overtime. Now the issue was decided quickly, with Phillipsburg scoring the game-winner one minute and 14 seconds into the OT.

In another game at the Max Invitational, Hill School lost, 1-0, to a team previously ranked second in the nation, St. John's School of Houston, Tex.