Allentown field hockey depending on energy, depth

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Scott Jacobs
Allentown High School's (back row) Kennedy Munster, Julia Giovanelli, Anna LaSalle, Brielle Uher, Katie Roth, (front row) Savannah Rehmann, 3, MacKenzie Hultberg, Madison Regina, Carleigh Delaney pose for a photograph as the seniors of the Field Hockey team on Aug 16.

Mary Ellen McCarthy is back for her 21st year as Allentown High School’s field hockey coach.

McCarthy originally retired in 2013. But she returned last year to replace Dana Wells, who was on maternity leave.

In July, though, Wells was named as the Allentown girls’ basketball coach, an appointment that led to her stepping down as the coach of the school’s field hockey team.

“Now that I’ve been named head (girls’ basketball) coach, I thought it (field hockey) was too much to take on as a new mother,” Wells said.

McCarthy was asked by the Upper Freehold Regional School Board to stay on as field hockey coach.

And she accepted.

The Redbirds had a successful 2017 season under McCarthy. They finished with a 16-4 record and won the Colonial Valley Conference Patriots Division while they  advanced to the semifinals of both the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey, Group 3 state sectional tournament.  

Allentown opens the 2018 campaign at home against Hightstown High School Sept. 6.

“I’ve been with the program so long and we have such a tradition and legacy that I wanted to keep the train moving. I have a formula and I move the pieces into the formula, so every season each girl gets the same type of coaching,” McCarthy said. “Each player leaves the season feeling accomplished. They had fun. It was meaningful. Every day they were challenged. That’s what I try to bring to the team daily, year after year.”

The Redbirds lost seven starters from their 2017 team, including a four-year starter in goal. McCarthy said she has two older players returning. Other than that, she is not sure what her lineup will look like.

Allentown did have more than 80 players try out this year, “which is wonderful for the program,” McCarthy said.

“I don’t have specifics on names, but last year we practiced the way practice is structured, focused on the goals we set, and the players executed, which made it successful,” McCarthy added. “I’m hoping we get that atmosphere going again.”

McCarthy does have a large group of seniors returning. They maintain that their goal is to win those last two games in the state tournament. The Redbirds hope to overwhelm opponents with aggressive offense and depth.

“We definitely want to double the (amount of) goals we scored last year,” said  senior Brielle Uher.

“In the past we relied on three or four girls,” said senior Anna Lasalle. “This year we’re trying to use everybody on the field equally. That will help, especially with transitioning from defense to offense.”

“We need to use our midfield as a second offensive line,” senior Carly Delaney pointed out. “The more girls we have in the cage, the more goals we’ll score.”

“We also have so many forwards this year. We have more forwards than any other position,” said another senior player, Madison Regina. “With more good players, we’ll have an even better chance to score.”  

Last year, in a victory over Notre Dame High School, Allentown’s entire team pushed up.

“Coach just said, ‘Everyone play offense,’” said senior MacKenzie Hultberg.

A defender scored Allentown’s first goal in that game.

“And that just set everyone off,” Hultberg said.

Expect Allentown to use that strategy more often in 2018.

“It’s a mindset,” Uher said. “Even the defense, the job is to think defensively, but they want to push the whole team up and start the rush.”

“Everybody can shoot. Everybody can score,” McCarthy said. “That’s how we play. That’s how we roll.”