What to watch in field hockey

Williamsburg’s top two players are back and Jamestown and Bruton each have new coaches for what should be another competitive field hockey season between the local sides.

Lafayette’s Lauren Walker and Warhill’s Braelyn Lassiter shared the top Virginia Gazette honor a season ago as juniors when Walker, a Longwood University recruit, scored nine goals and assisted on four and Lassiter scored nine and helped on 12 more.

Tabatha Hunt is the new varsity coach at Jamestown after previously leading the junior varsity squad and former Bruton standout Taylor Everette, a 2014 graduate, will lead the Panthers alongside assistant coach Luke Taylor (boys soccer coach, assistant athletic director).

Very little separated Lafayette, Warhill and Jamestown last season – Lafayette edged Warhill in a shootout and Jamestown defeated Lafayette 2-1 but fell to Warhill 2-1.

Lafayette and Warhill lost about the same number of seniors and Jamestown lost more than any other team with 11, though Hunt brought up some of her junior varsity players and expects the team to be at least as strong as last season.

Lafayette lost to 4A runner-up Grafton in the Conference 18 semifinals last fall and Warhill was defeated in the 3A East Region quarterfinals by Tabb, which won its third consecutive state title.

This year, the Lions move up to 4A and will open the season Aug. 29. Lafayette will host Woodside on Thursday in its season opener, Jamestown started on Tuesday at home against Heritage and Bruton will open on Monday.

Here’s a closer look at each team:

Lafayette

It starts with Walker, one of five returning seniors for the Rams along with Olivia Sears, Brie Gillen, Lauren Roth, and Meredith Pons.

Walker is the team’s top playmaker at center midfielder and a versatile one capable of dropping back and contributing defensively.

“Whatever you need done,” coach Kelley Engstrom said, “she does it.”

“I definitely think that I’m going to have to take responsibility of the younger girls and show them the ropes of how varsity works,” Walker said. “The varsity and JV games are different but I think all the girls are ready and they definitely can do it.”

Pons is Lafayette’s second leading returning scorer and the Rams also return what should be a stout defense in front of junior goalie Jackie Boesler and led by Gillen, who earned all-region honors last season along with Walker.

“We just want to go out and be competitive and win games,” Engstrom said. “I think we need to focus more on ourselves than, ‘Oh, we’re playing Tabb or Warhill.’ If we go out there and we’re focused and have our plan of attack, then we’ll have a solid year.”

Warhill

Lassiter is one of four returning starters for the Lions along with senior forward Megan Cretney, senior defender Delanie Snyder and sophomore forward Chloe Thompson.

Warhill has typically been bolstered by strong defensive units under coach Kristen Boykin but the Lions will feature depth on the offensive side this season with about eight interchangeable players.

“They all bring a great amount of speed, skill, teamwork, and determination to the offensive side of our team,” Boykin said. “They are very fun to watch and become more compatible every practice.”

Snyder is the only returning defender and senior Alyssa Bangit and junior Melody Gray are expected to split time in goal.

Some other players to watch for Warhill: seniors Olivia Schulz, Anna Hower, junior midfielder Kiersten Bangit, junior defender Kelli Mullen, junior Mazen Keyser-Cunningham, sophomore Grace Floyd, sophomore forward Susannah Armstrong.

“We won’t have just one standout,” Boykin said. “It will be a complete team effort to win games.”

Jamestown

Defense should be the strong point for Hunt’s Eagles, led by senior captains Madison Cooper and Caroline Moniz in front of freshman goalie Noelle Celli.

Rhiannon Marshall joins Cooper and Moniz as a returning senior starter.

Hunt said Jamestown’s attack should also be improved, helped by a strong junior class.

“From what I’ve seen in the scrimmages, we can be competitive,” Hunt said. “But it looks like we’ll be able to at least improve our record from last year. I’ve been real pleased with how I’ve seen the girls play, how they’ve been communicating, the dynamics of the team. So I have high hopes for this season.”

Bruton

The Panthers’ standout is goalie Maysen Elliott, a four-year starter and returning all-region player.

Elliott is one of the senior captains along with midfielder Macy Marotta, defender Lily Indovina, forward Alyssa Arbelli-Smith and midfielder Shannon Cadwell.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

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