Yes, it graduated 12 seniors from the team that went 7-1 in the spring.
And yes, it’s going through a coaching transition, as Laura Harding takes over as head coach after Jami Wilt stepped down following the abbreviated spring season.
But opponents thinking Kent Island High’s field hockey team is headed for some sort of cataclysmic decline this fall may be in for a major disappointment.
“I know the kids. I know the families,” Harding said. “I just don’t know much about the seniors.”
While Harding and the seniors have gotten acquainted through the preseason, here’s a few tidbits to chew on.
Harding has coached Kent Island’s freshmen, sophomores and juniors since they were five and six years old, starting in rec league through club ball with Team Chesapeake. She’s also gotten to know a lot of her players as the Bucs’ junior varsity lacrosse coach.
Add to that an impressive resume, as she coached South River from 1997 through 2004, leading the Seahawks to the Class 3A state title in 2000, and the 4A state championship in 2004.
Still Harding, who hasn’t been a high school head field hockey coach in 17 years, knows there will be a transition this fall.
“I think it’s tough because they have a new head coach,” Harding said. “It’s kind of cool because I know the families and I know the kids. But it’s still a different coaching philosophy, especially for the seniors that played because they have never had me as a coach.”
Harding thinks the transition is going well, and was encouraged by her team’s play in last weekend’s Broadneck Tournament, despite a pair of one-goal losses to River Hill and Mount de Sales.
“(Jami) Wilt was a great coach and she has a great program,” said Harding, who takes over a program that has won eight of the last nine North Bayside titles (there were no division champion in the abbreviated spring season). “We are a young team, but I think we’re going to be pretty good.”
Easton and Queen Anne’s figure to again provide Kent Island company at the top of the North Bayside. Alli Szymanski led the Warriors to an 8-2 mark in her first year as head coach last spring, while Shana Corder guided the Lions to yet another winning record.
North Caroline also has a new head coach, as Mandie Shockley takes over for Kelly Dixon, who stepped down after the spring season.
While Harding and Shockley settle into their new positions, Debbie McQuaid and assistant Missy Cannon look to lead Saints Peter and Paul to a second straight Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference title.
Here’s a look at this year’s area teams:
Head Coach: Alli Szymanski.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Aubrey Lavezzo (Jr.); Backs: Kaila Regan (Jr.); Angelina Duschel (Jr.); Lily Wieland (Sr.); Annah Mooney (Jr.); Kat Booth (Jr.); Sydney Johnson (So.); Midfield: Maddi Spies (Jr.); Mia Wheatley (Jr.); Emily Branic (So.); Avery Joseph (So.); Georgia Murdoch (Jr.); Forwards: Kat Knox (Sr.); Hannah Greene (Sr.); Jordan Regan (So.); Ella Chandler (Jr.); Emily Dahlen (Jr.); Sophia English (Sr.); Banchi Short (Jr.).
Outlook: The graduation of defensive standouts Olivia Brown and Chloe Briner, along with offensive threats Kate Boldt, Anna Roser and Giselle Harris will have the Warriors looking different this year.
“We are a different team this year and that’s not a bad thing,” said Szymanski, who will look to lead the Warriors to their first division title since 2010. “Our strengths are different, but they’re still strengths. I’m really excited for the change because I think teams are going to anticipate a certain team to come out and we’re very different from where we were last year, in a very good way. We’ve had to adjust to our new strengths, but the girls have done a phenomenal job.”
Center midfielder Maddi Spies and forwards Kat Knox — who has verbally committed to York (Pa.) College — and Ella Chandler are captains and part of a core group that helped Easton to its first victory over Kent Island last spring since Szymanski was playing in 2012. Among the changes will be Kaila Regan moving from midfield to defense.
“We have a very strong forward line, that’s very focused on executing the offense and ensuring that the ball hits the back of that cage,” Szymanski said.
Coach: Suzie Wright-Taylor.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Jaci Manning (So.); Backs: Sara Moxley (Jr.); Rachel Heldmeyer (Jr.); Midfield: Delaney Jewell (Jr.); Keira McColigan (Sr.); Carly King (So.); Forwards: Kenzie Clark (Sr.); Kendell Ford (Sr.); Drew Davis (So.); Lexi Morris (So.); Kate Cannon (Fr.); Dakota Denny (Fr.).
Outlook: The Trojans return the bulk of their spring team, but graduated Kate Ervin — now playing at Bryn Mawr (Pa.) College — and only have one substitute.
“We have a lot of ball skills and still can be competitive as long as our legs hold out,” said Wright-Taylor, who only has 12 players.
Moxley and Heldmeyer return in the back, while Clark and Ford look to provide scoring punch up front.
“I’m very hopeful,” Wright-Taylor said. “I keep telling them, ‘We’re small, but we’re mighty.’ I feel like we can at least give Queen Anne’s and Kent Island a run for their money, and Easton. We’re not going to let them walk over us.”
Coach: Laura Harding.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Allie Cimaglia (Jr.); Jordan Bunce (Sr.); Backs: Brianna Riska (Jr.); Elizabeth Coligan (Sr.); Aurora Parker (So.); Tristina Hudgins (Sr.); Mimi Quinn (Sr.); Midfield: Megan Carpenter (Jr.); Kelsey Cavanaugh (Jr.); Brookey Betcher (Jr.); Jamie Tranquill (So.); Amy Ludden (Jr.); Forward: Grace Hines (Sr.), Marley Waters (Sr.); Ava Ravanbakhsh (Jr.).
Outlook: The Bucs may be young, but they also have a solid returning base which includes Cimaglia in goal, along with Bunce, Riska and Division I prospect Carpenter.
And while a number of junior varsity players are now filling the ranks after the heavy graduation losses, Harding like what she saw at last weekend’s Broadneck Tournament.
“I saw some wonderful things in the beginning of the River Hill game,” Harding said. “I think we just need to run a little bit more. Once we started getting tired we started going back to our old habits. I think we just need to get ourselves in a little bit better shape and then we’ll be good. I think we’ve got great potential this year.”
Queen Anne’s County
Coach: Shana Corder.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Eryn Johnson (Sr.); Backs: Molly Holthaus (So.); Abby Denes (So.); Abby Rendulic (Sr.); Julia Reburn (So.); Midfield: Alyssa Riggelman (Jr.); Ava Fields (Fr.); Faith Novak (So.); Breanna McLean (Jr.); Emily Kepler (So.); Forwards: Faith Corder (Sr.); Brianna Schindler (Sr.); Charlotte Dyer (Jr.); Jamie Baldwin (Fr.).
Outlook: Corder wants to restore some longtime traditions, like team dinners and bonding, which were taken from the team last year because of COVID-19.
The Lions’ longtime head coach also wants to continue another tradition — winning.
“Young, but skilled,” Corder said of her team, which could be in the hunt for its first North Bayside title since 2017. “Good ball control. I think we’ll have a good year. I’m expecting a lot out of them. I expect performance on the athletic field.”
One of the benefits from the spring season Corder enjoyed was watching her younger players and then giving them instructions on what to work on for the fall season. A number of them did just that, including Novak, who earned a starting spot.
Coach: Emily Ray.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Julie Bridges (Sr.); Phoebe Cole (Fr.); Abrianna Henry (Fr.); Backs: Jessi Watts (Jr.); Mackenzie Foxx (Jr.); Campbell Gowe (So.); Natalie Haddock (So.); Brynn Lizewski (Fr.); Lola Browning (Fr.); Gabby Pickens (Fr.); Midfield: Macy Motovidlak (Sr.); Myka Motovidlak (Fr.); Maddie Dunker (Fr.); Forwards: Tori Batley (Sr.); Riley Papineau (Jr.); Abbie Kemp (Sr.); Alyssa Wojcik (Jr.); Katie Jenkins (So.); Grace Adkins (So.); Isabella Rosas (So.); Molly Genrich (Fr.); Claire Bieber (Fr.); Karina Mazur (Fr.); Lexi Rockwell (Fr.).
Outlook: After focusing heavily on defense in the spring, the Saints are hoping to change directions.
“Last year we had a really defensive season,” Ray said. “They want to flip the script and be an offensive team this year, and they’ve done that so far in summer league and in our tournaments.”
Ray said the arrival of a big freshman class has helped to heighten excitement within the ranks, and has also created a battle for starting spots.
“It’s a whole different team,” Ray said. “They’re fighting for positions this year where last year they weren’t so they’re really hungry. They want to come back, especially my seniors. They want to have something to fight for. Their main goal this year is they just want to score.”
Saints Peter & Paul
Coach: Debbie McQuaid.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Vicka Lafferty (Jr.); Backs: Skylar Gary (So.); Caroline Talucci (Sr.); Maddie Hernandez (Sr.); Katherine Murphy (Fr.); Midfield: Evelyn Murphy (Jr.); Gennie Webb (So.); Morgan Quade (So.); Catherine Langston (Jr.); Samantha Murphy (Fr.); Forwards: Emmary Sweeney (So.); Lexi Ekross (Jr.); Cadence Kelly (So.); Lexi Gordon (Sr.).
Outlook: The Sabres lost their opener to Holly Grove last year and didn’t lose the rest of the abbreviated season, which included beating Holly Grove for the ESIAC championship on Webb’s dramatic overtime goal.
Seniors Nancy McGettigan — now playing at Catholic University — and Joy Perry graduated, but the Sabres still look to have plenty offensive punch with Webb, Sweeney and Quade.
“We’re just young,” said McQuaid, whose team extended its win streak to five with Tuesday’s 3-2 season-opening victory over Indian Creek. “Teaching some of the new kids who are athletes the game will help. They’re all working hard.”
After missing last season, Talucci returns to anchor the defense. Evelyn Murphy’s speed will cause opponents problems at midfield. McQuaid thinks Langston, a transfer from St. Timothy’s in Baltimore, will be a strong addition.
“Each scrimmage we’ve gotten better,” said McQuaid, who has 16 players on her team.
Coach: Yvonne Gazelle.
Who’s Where: Goalie: Sophia Kent (So.); Backs: Samantha Jayne (So.); Lucy Bamford (Sr.); Alanna Grace (Jr.); Midfield: Julia McClary (Jr.); Lexi Norman (Sr.); Tori Nessly (Fr.); Forwards: Paige Holmes (Sr.); Julia Reed (Jr.); Lane Parkhurst (Jr.); Grace Shepherd (Fr.).
Outlook: “Things look good,” said Gazelle, who has a roster of 17.
Jayne, Bamford and Grace return to provide a strong defensive unit.
“I think we still have a solid defense from last year,” Gazelle said. “And we’ve added some offensive players which will hopefully help us win some games.”
Editor’s Note: Information on North Caroline was unavailable.
Colonel 2, Washington 0
AMERICAN CORNER — Josh Cohee and Morgan Demir each scored a goal Wednesday as Colonel Richardson opened its season with a shuout.
Colonels keeper Crystian Brewer made five saves. Conner Detrich was credited with an assist.