A new season brings a change for the State College field hockey team.
Bethany Mink has taken the reins of the Little Lion program this year, seeking to keep the program as a contender among the state’s top programs.
She already has her team eager to hit the field.
“Bethany has done a really good job of filtering herself into the group and getting everybody to work together,” junior Abby Biddle said. “I think it should be good.”
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The new season under the new boss begins Sept. 4 at Chambersburg, with Mink taking over the program from Chelsea Cummins.
Mink coached with the junior high program last season and is a former Penn State player. Mink was a forward for three seasons with the Nittany Lions through 2015.
She also has worked with many of the Lady Little Lion athletes in the offseason in indoor club field hockey.
“I’ve seen their progress and growth from January ’til now, so I’m very excited to continue what we started,” Mink said.
State College put together a 14-7 campaign in 2016, falling 5-0 to Unionville in the opening round of the PIAA Class 3A tournament. It was the Lady Little Lions’ first trip to the state tournament since 2012. The team also posted a 9-3 record in the Mid Penn Conference’s Commonwealth Division.
“Our girls have shown in the past several years that they can compete in that conference,” Mink said. “I don’t think it will be any different this year.”
Mink also is pretty confident in her team’s offense. The Lady Little Lions rolled up 35 goals last season, shutout only two other times, in early September, last season.
The leading returning scorers are midfielders Kelsey Love, a junior, and sophomore Carissa Tambroni, with each netting six goals last season and Love also picking up nine assists. Mink also expects big contributions from Halle Rex, Sally Stahl and Alyssa Dunlap.
“We want to see as many scorers as possible,” Mink said. “We have a lot of versatile girls and, if we get some things with a solid grounding, especially on our (penalty) corners, I think we’ll have a lot of different people scoring.”
The team does have to replace some major graduation losses in Shelby Querry (Indiana), Jackie Snedden (Lock Haven) and Taylor Love (basketball at Marymount), but a large contingent does return for this season, including, midfielder Lizzie Paterno and backs Biddle, Abby Kissell and Lily Dochat.
“A lot of us have played together before, but it will be interesting to see how the new people mix in,” Kelsey Love said. “I think we’ll have really good team chemistry this year because we’re all really good friends.”
That kind of familiarity, with so many also playing together with the indoor club program, should have the team pretty comfortable right from the first game.
“We work hard (in the) offseason too,” Halle Rex. “We connect really well. We always know where the ball’s going to go without even saying it. We work really hard together, and hard work pays off.”
State College field hockey
Head coach: Bethany Mink (first season)
Last season: 14-7, 9-3 Mid Penn Conference, District 6 Class 3A champions, lost to Unionville 5-0 in PIAA first round
Assistant coaches: Rachel Reed, Sean Meily, Linda Bonness (volunteer)
Key losses: Shelby Querry, Jackie Snedden, Taylor Love
Returning letterwinners: Sydney Asencio, Abby Biddle, Lily Dochat, Abby Kissell, Kesley Love, Lizzie Paterno, Halle Rex, Sally Stahl, Carissa Tambroni, Ava Whitlark
Key newcomers: Rebecca Bonness; Maddie Tambroni, Libby Fortin, Alyssa Dunlap; Kendall Kleinman, Kyra Whitlark