Penn-Trafford field hockey begins WPIAL title defense
Penn-Trafford put itself atop the WPIAL field hockey elite last year.
Friday, it began its first season as the team others are trying to knock off.
The Warriors have to cope with the loss of a large senior group that led the team to its first WPIAL title, but a small but strong core group of returning players have P-T thinking about a return trip to the playoffs to defend its title.
The team opened up the regular season Friday with a big nonsection home win over Greensburg Central Catholic, 12-1, and the names atop the score sheet are familiar ones from last season. Senior Amanda Steffey had four goals, and sophomore Isabel Siergiej had three, as the Warriors' offense looked like it barely missed a beat.
“We have high hopes for this year,” Penn-Trafford coach Cindy Dutt said.
“Our entire defense is new this year, except for the goalkeepers, but the beauty of having such a good and experienced forward line and midfield is that we can outscore teams to win.”
Along with the two main goal scorers from the first game, the Warriors return more experience in the midfield.
Senior Sydney Pribanic, who last year was among the team leaders in assists, moves into the important role of center midfield. Juniors Tori Lago and Morgan LeVeille also move into midfield roles, while junior Angela Sciulli adds more depth to the forwards.
In the back is where many of P-T's questions rest, as the Warriors begin the year with an entirely new defensive trio — senior Julianna Bessone, junior Lindsay Loughner and junior Taylor Nedley. Helping them adjust to being the three at the back for Penn-Trafford will be senior goalkeeper Harry Miller and junior goalkeeper Jess Wisniewski, both of whom return from sharing that responsibility last year.
“Defense is where we're going to be putting a lot of focus this year,” Dutt said.
“We need to work on channeling and delaying the other team better than we have in our scrimmages (against Peters Township) and in the first game.”
Dutt also mentioned sophomore Anna Taylor as a player who could see varsity time, but the Warriors' roster is smaller this year, which will force Dutt to largely rely on the players she starts with on the field.
“It's a very cohesive, very tight group, but it's smaller than we want it to be,” Dutt said. “Our numbers are down.”
The largest obstacle to Penn-Trafford's chance at repeating is the team it beat in last year's final, North Allegheny. Both the Tigers and another Section 1-AAA team Dutt expects to be strong, Pine-Richland, have new head coaches this season, but P-T's coach said she doesn't expect that to mean the teams are any weaker.
“Whenever you beat North Allegheny, they come out and swarm you like hornets the next time you play them. They pressure you everywhere on the field, and we have to be ready for that when we play them,” Dutt said.
Before the Warriors open section play next week, they were scheduled to get in a pair of nonsection tune-ups on the road this week.
Penn-Trafford was scheduled to play Oakland Catholic on Wednesday, after this edition's deadline, and it faces Fox Chapel Thursday at 7 p.m.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.