Panthers enter new era under head coach Erin Hamson
The Perryville field hockey team is set for a season of change, as Erin Hamson steps in to replace two-time Coach of the Year Janet Candy.
The changes from 2015 are not limited to the sidelines either, as Hamson will need to find a way to replace All-County selections at each position — forward Kyleigh Knell (13 goals, 11 assists), midfielder Lydia Hill (two goals, three assists), defender Kaitlyn Griffin, and goalie Lacie Flores. The four players helped the team to consecutive region finals the past two seasons.
“The face of the team looks a little different,’ Hamson said. “The 11 athletes that we graduated last year left some really big shoes to fill, both in their leadership and their skills on the field.”
Leading the returning players is All-County forward Claire Hudson, who netted five goals to go along with 10 assists last season. Hudson also garnered an honorable mention AllCounty nod as a sophomore, and looks to continue to build as the central piece in the Panthers attack. Classmate Krissy McDuff returns after missing last season with an injury, and looks to showcase her great shooting skills.
The Panthers offense will also be buoyed by a pair of returning juniors, Aubrey Hill and Emma Coggins. Both have shown a knack for creating and capitalizing on chances, and should bolster the midfield ranks.
At the defensive end, senior Ashley Meekins returns after being named to the honorable mention AllCounty team last year. Madalyn Wilkinson takes over in goal for Flores, and has proven to be up to the task in early practices and scrimmages.
“The returning varsity players have worked tremendously hard this preseason to connect as a team,” Hamson said. “And to show that they are still here, that they are still a dominating presence in the field hockey community.”
As for newcomers to the varsity, sophomore defender Emily Sponaugle was the first name out of Ham- son’s mouth. Sponaugle saw some varsity time at the end of last season, but will likely be stepping right in as a starter on the back line, and should be a tremendous asset to the program for years to come.
The freshmen have also impressed in the early going with their athleticism — Jadynn Rondone, Nadia MaKach and Anna Gibson. Rondone, an accomplished gymnast, is transitioning well to her new sport, while MaKach impressed from the time she first stepped onto the field.
“The first time I saw [Nadia] with a field hockey stick in her hand, I knew she was made to play this sport,” Hamson said. “She’s a natural.”
While 2016 is shaping up to be more of a “reloading” season than a “rebuilding” season for Perryville, Hamson also wanted to stress that their focus is on success beyond the lines of the field hockey field.
“We want to make sure that our first concern is growing young women,” she said. “The success of our program isn’t going to be measured by our record at the end of the season, but it will be seen when they are 25 [years old] and starting their careers, or when they are 30 [years old] and starting their families. We want them to know that things in life will not get easier, but it is possible to get better at them with hard work.”
Perryville senior Claire Hudson returns following an All-County campaign.