By Rich Fisher
It’s hard to say just how the Nottingham High field hockey team will do this year, but it’s already a lock to say that the Northstars are better than any NHS team since 2012.
In getting off to a 2-1 start, it took Nottingham three games to accomplish what it took the three previous years to do. The Northstars won a total of two games during that time.
Just what’s going on out there?
“I think we have a lot of young girls that are fit, in shape and came to play field hockey,” coach Jen Cicale said. “It’s our typical crew of coming in as freshmen with no real experience, but it’s more of a focused group and they’re really here to play. They’re here to win and get better.”
In other words, they want to be good field hockey players, even if they haven’t played in recreation leagues or travel leagues. They seem to be listening to the coaching staff and trying to improve.
“We have a lot of potential,” Cicale said. “We have a lot of stamina, a lot of speed. We’re really working on skill and positioning at this point. I think our positioning is a little off. If we get that taken care of we should be OK. We’ll compete.”
Nottingham sandwiched wins over Burlington City and Steinert around a loss to Northern Burlington to start the year. That was followed by a disappointing 2-1 loss to Hamilton West in which the Stars had a 1-0 lead.
But even in defeat, Nottingham impressed the Hornets, Alicia Lepore noticed a difference in the Stars.
“They’re definitely improved,” said Lepore, who scored the game-winning goal. “Speed-wise, as a team they’re a lot better. There’s not a lot of pushing. Their stick work is a lot better. It was impressive.”
One of Nottingham’s big problems in the past was scoring, and sophomore Paige Rocco seems to be helping in that area as she scored three goals in the first four games.
“The first couple of games I didn’t think she was going to do anything because she was out on the left, floating,” Cicale said. “After she started scoring she got more aggressive. She’s really starting to come to the ball. I’m at the point where I feel like I have to get her off the left and get her into center just to get more touches. I need her stick on the ball.”
Providing support up front for Rocco is freshman Stella Spatolla, while some major contributions have come in the back from junior Alicyn Blanchard and senior Kristina Woods.
“I lost my whole defensive line last year,” Cicale said. “Alicyn stepped up, she’s doing amazing back there. Kristina Woods was a forward, she was my right wing, I dropped her back to center D and she’s doing amazing back there. Those two girls are doing a great job filling a position where we had no one to put in there.”
The defenders are key as Nottingham is trying to break in a new goalie in sophomore Brianna Dunmeyer.
“There’s some things that needs to be worked on; she’s young and going from playing (JV) as a freshman right to varsity is a huge difference,” Cicale said. “As long as she stays in the game and keeps focused and keeps learning that’s a good thing because then I’ll have her for two more years.”
The coach isn’t predicting a monster season by her team, which is still extremely young. But she feels that some more victories are coming and that Nottingham could surpass the four-win total registered by the 2012 team.
“When we went down and scrapped it out with Burlington City and got the win, it took a lot of pressure off,” said Cicale, whose team snapped a long losing streak last year. “It kind of gave us the ability to let go and play more freely. I seem to say every year is a building year, but I think this season is really going to help us in moving on.”