Aubrey Wilcox works the ball down the field during play in a scrimmage against Fleetwood last Thursday. Wilcox is one of three returning starters the from last year's team.
Though only three starters return from the Upper Perkiomen field hockey team that captured the Pioneer Athletic Conference and District One Class AA titles last year, expectations for the current season remain high, according to midfielder Sam Dingler.
She said the Indians expect to qualify for the conference and district playoffs this season despite a slew of first-year varsity players. "We're going to have to work a lot harder," said Dingler, a senior. "But our people are ready to step up and live up to the name (on the front of the jersey).''
The Indians will get an early test when they open the regular season Friday at home against Souderton. They open their PAC-10 season one week later against Pottstown.
According to head coach Jamie Warren, the team with five players returning from a team that finished 20-5 and reached the second round of the PIAA Class AA state tournament will rely heavily on Dingler, a midfielder, and classmates Aubrey Wilcox, a forward, and goalie Hannah Mack as the team's backbone. "We're building the team around those three," Warren said.
Members of a strong sophomore class will also get significant playing time, according the coach.
Upper Perkiomen's offense will feature a different style than last year, according to Warren. She said it calls for flooding the offensive circle when the ball reaches that point on the field.
Senior forward Mara Fulmer, a contributor off the bench last year who is currently rehabbing an injury, is expected to make an offensive contribution when she returns in mid-September, according to Warren.
The coach said that a few talented freshmen could positively impact the team's scoring.
Dingler, a three-year starter, embraced her role as a leader at the end of last season. She has spent the initial two weeks of practice helping to position her teammates and teach the other midfielders the nuances of the varsity game. "I knew the returning players would have to step up," Dingler said.
She says the underclassmen are preparing to succeed. "The freshmen and sophomores new to the team are not scared or nervous in practice," Dingler said. "They are very active in drills, very coachable and ready to learn."
How quickly the team finds its stride depends on how the young players gel together, according to Dingler. "It should take a couple of weeks," she said. "We're doing a lot of things together on and off the field."