Pinelands Fall Sports Preview

Pinelands Field Hockey Returns Strength for Next Big Season

Girls Soccer, Girls Tennis Outlook
By DAVID BIGGY | Sep 06, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy POWER WINDUP: Junior Karianna Eagle is one scoring threat as the Pinelands Regional field hockey team aims for the top of the Shore Conference Class B South division.

Little Egg Harbor — Moments after the game ended, many of the players on last year’s Pinelands Regional field hockey team probably didn’t grasp the benefits it would reap from the experience of reaching the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II semifinals. The season ended with a 3-0 loss to a highly skilled Delsea squad, but sometimes there is such a thing as a good loss.

“Today was a good example of how high school hockey can be played well,” head coach Liz Law said at the time. “This was a higher intensity for our girls, and we’re going to adapt and build our program based on this. What our girls did today wasn’t only about this game. It was about building our program with the younger girls coming back.”

Well, next year has arrived and it’s time to see what the younger players returning to the squad this fall have learned from their experience during last year’s 13-4-1 campaign.

“A small varsity roster has really asked our players to step up to lead,” Law said. “We look forward to working hard, connecting as a unit and playing for each other. The team took personal responsibility this summer to come in fit, and it shows. These girls have been adaptable, but are able to play the foundations of their game. We are looking to stay competitive within our division and state section.”

To be competitive again this fall, the Wildcats will do so without Rachel Papernik, who graduated following last season and now plays for Quinnipiac University. That might seem to be a big blow to the team’s potential scoring output, but Law probably isn’t too concerned, given the number of players who returned to lead the offense.

Among them are senior attacker Adrian Dieckman, senior midfielder Hailey Nutt, junior attacker Jamilyn Hawkins and junior midfielder Karianna Eagle. This quartet provided plenty of offensive clout last fall. Collectively, they should be able to fill the void left behind by Papernik.

“Hailey has grown into a solid and reliable midfielder, whose skill, confidence and adaptability on the left side are a stronghold for our team,” Law said. “Karianna has shifted from the right side into the center of the midfield. Her strength, skill and support have earned her this spot and she has taken to it well.

“Jamilynn has proven to be a deadly contender on the forward line. Her speed, her tight skill and her shot selection give her the potential to be one of the highest-scoring players in our program’s recent history. Adrian has stepped up to the forward line, lending her speed and stick skill to the scoring board. She’s able to move the ball with speed, and shows beautiful touches in the attacking circle.”

And then there’s the Wildcats’ defense, which this season may be the strongest aspect of the squad – and one that may help win a lot of games. Leading the defensive unit will be seniors Sarah Keady, Sam Kline and Alyssa Rodriguez.

“Sarah is our team’s workhorse,” Law said. “Sarah is our only four-year starter, and she takes personal responsibility for everything on the field. She is our stronghold in the back, keeps our backfield connected and is supportive of the midfield. She works end line to end line, constantly encouraging other players and picking up the energy and attitude.

“Sam has grown immensely in skill and game knowledge, and best known for her wicked block tackle. Alyssa has shaped into a great defender with a solid stick, quick release and superior strength.”

In addition to the seniors leading the defensive charge, juniors Kennedy Heinrichs and Layla Frost, as well as sophomore Kamryn Borden, will help solidify the backfield in front of junior goaltender Mickenzie Horay, whom Law says was a big factor during preseason scrimmages. The only newcomer to the squad is freshman defender Akayla Palmucci, a youngster Law says has “great potential” and is “already a phenomenal athlete.”

Girls Tennis

When three starters from an eight-win season don’t return, it can throw a wrench into the system the coach was hoping to bring forth for the next season. Such was the case for Sarah Ervin and her Pinelands girls tennis squad.

“Unfortunately, we began the season without three returning starters from last season, so we are rebuilding as a very young team,” Ervin said. “We’re mainly going to be focusing on being fundamentally strong, mental stamina and cohesiveness.”

While things didn’t start off well for the Wildcats – they lost their opening match, 5-0, to Southern Regional on Sept. 3 – Ervin is hopeful and expectant that her crew will rise to the challenges and overcome them to earn some victories. But in the Shore Conference Class B South division, that’s not likely to be easy.

Still, Pinelands will forge ahead with a trio of young, inexperienced singles players leading the way. Sophomore Saige Pharo is at first singles, while senior Britney Azzara is in the second singles position and Angelina Papa is at third singles.

The regular doubles squads have yet to be sorted out, as Ervin attempts to find the right combinations that may help grab some points and win some swing matches. For the time being, seniors Alyssa Hadzovic and Emily Kaszuba, as well as juniors Carli King, Holly Meyer and Courtney Burns, will be the leading contenders for the four doubles positions.

“We’re fortunate to have young players as first-year varsity players, who are extremely eager to learn their positions and continually striving to improve their skills,” Ervin said. “We’re optimistic for the upcoming season.”

Girls Soccer

Prior to the start of every season, Pinelands girls soccer coach Dawn Paget doesn’t typically reveal much about her team. Such was the case as this season approached as well.

“We have a young team but we will look to be competitive,” she said.

Don’t let Paget’s coy statement fool you. Her team not only has a handful of seniors with plenty of experience, but a solid core group of talented and experienced juniors, as well. In fact, eight of this season’s starters were starters by the end of last season, when the Wildcats went 11-4-3 and captured the Shore Conference Class B South division title for the first time in program history.

Heading into this fall, there was no reason to think Pinelands couldn’t return to the top of the division, especially given the offensive clout of senior forward Aileen Cahill, already the all-time leading scorer in the team’s history; and junior forward Sunni DiElmo. And despite the graduation loss of former midfielder Alex Hanna, junior midfielder Marlee Tharp and sophomore midfielder Bridget Dudas should have no difficulty in getting the ball to the front line.

Additionally, the defense is in good hands, not only with senior goalkeeper Brenna DeVoe – one of the best keepers in B South – back for a third season, but also with senior Cathy Hanna, junior Abby Hart and sophomore Karlie Pomponio patrolling the backfield in front of DeVoe.

So, the only question from that vantage point hinges on how Paget chooses to fill the three vacant positions left behind by Alex Hanna and two other graduated players. One answer looks to be in newcomer Kayla Stallard, whom Paget has dubbed as a sophomore who may “make an immediate impact at midfield.”

A pair of backups from last year’s squad, juniors Amanda Sisco and Maggie Creevy, may see some significant time this fall, as will seniors Erin Pomponio, AnnaMarie Mattina and Destiny Pomponio. The rest of the squad includes Samantha Sesta, Megan Jurich, Leila Garcia, Samantha Dawson, Heather Hancock, Taylor Minarik, Zinnia Moon, Melissa Myslinski, Zoey Tempe, Jaedyn Thomson and Amanda Wulffen.

— David Biggy

Pinelands field hockey forward Jamilyn Hawkins. (Photo by: David Biggy)
With a young batch of players taking on bigger roles this season, Saige Pharo will lead the Pinelands girls tennis team from the top position. (Photo by: David Biggy)
Angelina Papa mostly will play third singles for the Pinelands girls tennis team this fall. (Photo by: David Biggy)
The Pinelands girls soccer team has plenty of scoring clout returning to its lineup this fall, including that of junior Sunni DiElmo. (Photo by: David Biggy)
Already Pinelands' all-time leading goal-scorer, Aileen Cahill is back for her senior season as the girls soccer program takes aim at a second straight division title. (Photo by: David Biggy)
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