New co-coaches eager to begin field hockey season
Marissa Faso and Gina Stephan played together for Clarence during middle school before Faso enrolled at Nichols for her high school years. The pair, who will be co-coaching this season after taking over a program that reached the Class A semifinals during its 8-6-3 overall effort last fall, are still getting to know this year’s group, but so far likes what they see.
“This team is coachable and willing to learn as much as possible from the coaching staff, as well as from their teammates,” Faso and Stephan noted in a joint statement. “We are working on a lot of communication, so we should stand out as one of the more talkative teams.”
Being new to the squad this year, Faso and Stephan didn’t feel comfortable enough at this point in the preseason to speak about individual players and their abilities, preferring to wait until they have the chance to see their squad compete in game situations for a couple of weeks. This year’s team features six returnees among its seven seniors, however, including Allison Panaro and Alexa Tuzzo, who combined to score nine goals and assist on two others. Panaro scored the bulk of the goals (6), while they each dished out a single assist.
The other seniors on the squad this season include Megan Kostecky, Cayleigh O’Brien, Caitlin Schreiber, Jordan Shalke and Gabriella Walsh.
Returning sophomore Maggie Kelkenberg, meanwhile, added five goals and three assist last season. Returning junior Morgan Berndt also chipped in with three goals and an assist.
“A lot of the girls’ personal goals include getting their conditioning to a level that will allow them to play a full 60 minutes, and even a full 75 if they have to,” the coaches said. “They are also focused on working on their hits where making them more consistent is concerned. As a team, the girls all want the same thing: to come together, have fun and play in the postseason.”
Faso and Stephan have been able to get a few glimpses at what the season might hold by way of the Lady Red Devils’ scrimmages with Amherst, Akron, Holland and Nichols. The Holland scrimmage was of particular interest to the duo since Clarence was also able to face East Aurora and Roy-Hart at the multi-team festival. Clarence “was competitive in every game and got the outcome we worked for” each time out, the coaches said.
“Our defense is gaining confidence, and we are hoping they learn to command their role by communicating in the back,” the coaches said. “Our bench is deep with talent this year and we have versatile players, and it looks like their camaraderie and ability to adapt to any situation on the field should be a big help this fall. We specifically were able to see where our weaknesses lie at the scrimmages, as well as how we can develop our practice plans to overcome those weaknesses. We are also loving how well our team is developing in terms of the chemistry needed to be a successful team. With a younger roster, scrimmaging helps to give the girls confidence in their play at the varsity level.”
The Lady Red Devils officially open their 2017 campaign this afternoon by hosting Hamburg, and then close out the first week of school by traveling to Lancaster on Friday. Clarence will then begin a three-game week by hosting state Class B semifinalist Iroquois on Monday.
“We know we’re going to have a tough first couple of weeks with games against Hamburg, Iroquois, and Williamsville North and East, especially with this being our first year at the varsity level,” the coaches said. Every game is going to be considered competitive. But, when everyone is on the same page, having fun with a positive attitude, we believe all of our team and individual goals will be achieved.”