Last year’s .500 season was a bit of a disappointment according to Indian River’s Head Field Hockey Coach Pativa McKean, but with so much senior leadership on the field, the Lady Indians should thrive in 2006.
Indian River loses four seniors to graduation, but returns a ton of veteran players, whom McKean will count on to carry this team and help them develop for the future.
“We’re losing a super kid in Jessica Spencer to graduation, but she participated in our alumni weekend, which showed a lot of loyalty,” said McKean. “She didn’t have to do it, but she’s a great example to the younger girls because she’s in killer shape and, once you hit alumni status, you kind of hit superstar status.”
Where there is loss, there is also sometimes gain, and McKean has a roster of a bunch of ladies a year older and better prepared to execute her aggressive game plan.
McKean will have a senior starting at every line on the field this season and noted that their familiarity with each other will cause the offense to flourish.
Ali Ambrose, Kayla Warrington, Ashley Roberts, Ellen DuPont and Kathryn Riley are the five seniors McKean is looking at to anchor the starting lineup.
“Our seniors set the tone,” said McKean. “They have come in really prepared and they know what I expect of them. I want them to communicate, execute and push the pace. We want to be very active and score goals.”
In addition to serving as a good example to young players on the field, McKean stated how pleased she was at how well her senior class recruited. The Lady Indians were without their star goalie Riley for the first week of camp due to Lower Sussex’s run in the Big League Little League World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich., but this time gave McKean an opportunity to evaluate an up-and-comer.
“It was looking a little bleak with Kathryn out, but it’s kind of ironic because Kathryn convinced sophomore Abi Buchler to come out for the team and she has rocked in the goal,” said McKean. “She’s a natural in the goal and Saturday (Aug. 20) she kicked butt in all six games she played in.”
McKean expressed a great deal of satisfaction knowing that her players would recruit in an attempt to build the program for the future.
“It’s such a blessing having players who are willing to make the team better even if it means greater competition for a position. But these girls are such great competitors that it will only raise their game and push them to play harder,” said McKean.
“That’s what makes players like Kathryn so special,” said McKean. “They can be heroes every game but are willing to teach younger players the positions so that the program can continue its success.”
Flanked by a stellar senior class, McKean’s juniors will also play a prominent role this season. McKean returns four “exceptional players” in Shawnee Seitz, Farrah Benner, Molly Chamberlin and first team southern-conference defender Courtney Cook, but it’s Cook that makes the wheels go around for the Lady Indians.
“Courtney is a real stud,” said McKean. “She is very involved in the offense and anything that pops out of the circle or on a penalty corner, she knows to pass it back in,” said McKean.
Indian River will look to push the tempo of the game this year and McKean expects her players to look to score at every available opportunity.
“We’re going to play to win,” said McKean. “I want my players to aggressively search to score. I want to see my sweeper steal a ball and score a goal. My defenders and offensive players should be well rounded in their skills on both sides of the field.”
Seniors and juniors will lead from the front but there are always smatterings of underclassmen that show considerable promise and end up with an important role on the team. Sophomore Jordan Warrington was one of those players for McKean last year and she has noted a transformation in Warrington since arriving at Indian River last fall.
“When Jordan came in, I could see she had a lot of natural ability and a lot of promise, but was very timid,” said McKean. “The competition level rises considerably from the middle school to the high school level, but Jordan really became a clutch player for the softball team and that experience has broken her in to the expectations of this level of competition.”
McKean also has incorporated schemes from other sports into her game plan which gives the Lady Indians an added sense of familiarity.
“With an exception of two girls, our team is a 50/50 mix of softball and soccer players, and I try to incorporate specific aspects of those sports into field hockey,” said McKean. “I like the pick-and-roll in basketball and deny defense from lacrosse. I like the spacing and angles of soccer and the tracking and hard hitting of softball and with all the success that these ladies had this spring, it will likely give them an advantage this season.”
Field hockey at Indian River High School is primed for a return to Henlopen playoff status, but McKean hopes to take the sport even further.
Some, but not all, of the Lady Indians participated in the Mid-Atlantic field hockey camp at Lewes this summer, but McKean plans to find a way to get more players additional instruction or games.
“Right now, we’re aspiring to start fund-raising to bring more players to the camp,” said McKean. “I’m also working to start an indoor or recreational team.”
“It won’t be the next softball phenomenon, but it will offer these girls an outlet to get a game in once a week in the off-season,” said McKean. “Something to get the stick on the ball.”