There was a lot of turnover amidst the Central League field hockey coaching ranks this offseason, and Springfield was no exception to that.
The school brought in Maria Unger to replace Brittany Piotti as one of four new coaches around the leag, and while Unger has never coached at the high school level before, she’s not exactly new to the sport.
“I was the head of the Haverford Township recreation field hockey league, and I’ve also coached at Fast Flicks in Malvern,” Unger said. “I’ve always been involved in field hockey for the past 20 years. With my kids getting older, I had more time to dedicate to a varsity sport, and when the Springfield job opened up, I really pursued it.”
That pursuit clearly worked for Unger, and she’s inheriting a senior-laden team with the potential to crash the party at the top of the Central League standings.
“We’re going to be a different team than people are used to seeing,” Unger said.
If that’s going to be the case, those seniors will have to come through with big seasons. When asked about who she expects to have the biggest impact, Unger didn’t need much time to pinpoint her go-to girl.
“I’m expecting a lot from Sarah Gamble,” Unger said. “She’s a senior who’s moved from center back to center mid. She’s a consistent player, and we can always count on her to be where she needs to be. She always does something with the ball and you can always count on her to make big plays.”
Gamble will have a slew of classmates to help her out, though. Olivia Kane, a center forward/mid, is someone Unger thinks can have a big year, a breakout year of sorts.
“She’s one of our co-captains, and she’s as consistent as they come,” Unger said. “People are going to know who she is. She gives 110 percent, she’s always where she needs to be, and she’s a really smart player. She’s like a rock for us.”
The Cougars will need to score goals – and lots of them – if they want to make an leap to join the league elites, and those duties will fall upon on seniors Steph Cant and Nicole Ward. Unger likes the way the duo works together on the forward line, and she thinks they will keep goalies and defenses busy all season.
“I love that Steph is always ready to score goals,” Unger said. “She’s really hungry on the forward line. She’s a pest at the goal, she won’t stop until she scores. And if Steph can’t get a shot off, she’ll go to Nicole. They both work really well together.”
The goaltending duties, at least early on, will be heaped on a sophomore until some injury problems sort themselves out. Ally Scanlon has Unger excited for her potential in the cage.
“Ally’s showing good things,” Unger said. “She’s pretty fearless, really. She just goes in and does her job. She’s working on her command of the defense, but she has quick reflexes and she should be very good.”
Very good, something the Cougars wouldn’t mind being. Keep an eye on this team. It could be special.
– MATT CHANDIK