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Penn-Trafford field hockey team motivated after missing playoffs in 2013

Lillian DeDomenic | For the Penn-Trafford Star - Penn-Trafford junior Karen Postupac prepares to insert a corner during a game against Norwin on Sept. 24, 2013, at Warrior Stadium.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lillian DeDomenic  |  For the Penn-Trafford Star</em></div>Penn-Trafford junior Karen Postupac prepares to insert a corner during a game against Norwin on Sept. 24, 2013, at Warrior Stadium.
Doug Gulasy | Trib Total Media - Penn-Trafford senior Isabel Siergiej participates in an agility drill on Aug. 11, 2014, at Government Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Doug Gulasy  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Penn-Trafford senior Isabel Siergiej participates in an agility drill on Aug. 11, 2014, at Government Field.

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After winning the WPIAL championship in 2011 and finishing as the runner-up in 2012, the Penn-Trafford field hockey team found itself in an unfamiliar spot last season: out of the playoffs altogether.

Armed with a strong group of returning players, the Warriors are motivated to return to the postseason in 2014.

Penn-Trafford opened fall practice Monday looking to bounce back from a season that saw the Warriors finish 12-4 but miss the playoffs after finishing in third place in Section 1-AAA. Only the top two teams from each section qualify for the WPIAL postseason.

“After making it to WPIALs two years in a row and not making the playoffs, that was a really terrible feeling,” senior Julie Donald said. “That could be motivation. We don't want that to happen again.”

The Warriors began training for the upcoming season back in May, focusing on improving their conditioning. The offseason work is already showing dividends, coach Cindy Dutt said after Monday's opening practice.

“We have a lot of dedicated seniors that did a lot of conditioning over the summer, and we routinely had 20 to 25 girls showing up for speed and agility (workouts),” Dutt said. “I'm really excited. And the skill level was very high, even with some of the newer players. (I'm) very optimistic. I think we have a very good shot to end up in the top two.”

Penn-Trafford boasts a strong senior class, including some players who played for the 2011 team that won the WPIAL championship. Dutt said she was counting on many of them to provide leadership for this year's team.

“We have nine of us (seniors), and we've mostly all played for a really long time,” senior Karen Postupac said. “I feel like we are just ready to go. We're not going to back down. We're seniors now, and we know what's on the line.”

“We're ready to get out there,” senior Lauren Reichert said.

Senior midfielder/forward Isabel Siergiej, a Cornell recruit, leads the way for this year's team. But she's joined by several other seniors who will help provide leadership for the 38-player roster.

“This is our biggest group ever, but the talent is huge,” Dutt said. “The athleticism is huge. The future's bright if they stick with it and fall in love with it.”

In addition to conditioning, Dutt said the players worked on their offense in the offseason. After a slow offensive start, the Warriors scored 36 goals in their final 10 games last season.

“They liked the success they had at the end of the season, so I think that carried over,” Dutt said.

The Warriors' entire starting defense, including goalkeeper Jessica Wisniewski, graduated after last season. Junior Christina Bauer gained experience in goal last season when Wisniewski was out with a concussion, and Dutt expects Bauer and Maddie Gavatorta to form a strong goaltending tandem this season.

“My midfield is going to dictate what my defense is going to do, I think,” Dutt said. “We have a lot of very strong midfielders right now, and I think there's a couple underclassmen that will come in and fill the role of defense very well.”

Penn-Trafford will scrimmage Peters Township on Aug. 23 and Fox Chapel on Aug. 27 before opening the season at home against Woodland Hills on Sept. 2.

“There's a lot of newer girls (on the team),” Postupac said. “ I know as a freshman, I felt so encouraged to go my hardest, even if I didn't know everything. My goal is to win playoffs, but also to (make) the younger girls feel welcome and feel ready so when they're seniors, they can feel like (we do) now.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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