Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, the Smyrna High School field hockey team is focused on closing the season out strong.
“The team’s mentality is that they are hungry for tournament play,” said Smyrna Head Coach Nicki Shirey. “They have set goals and are working hard to meet the goals. They’ve taken something away from each game played this season to learn and get better.”
With an 8-3-1 mark through 12 games, the Lady Eagles have been one of the top teams in the Henlopen Conference. They’ve earned some big victories along the way, but perhaps most importantly, they’ve responded well after losses.
Smyrna opened the season with a tough 1-0 loss against Indian River but went on to win three straight games, defeating Caesar Rodney 5-0, Sussex Central 5-0 and Milford 4-2.
After yet another tough 1-0 loss, this time against Sussex Tech, the Lady Eagles bounced back again, winning their next two games over Appoquinimink, 3-0, and Seaford, 10-0.
Smyrna suffered its third loss of the season to a still-undefeated Delmar squad, but have gone 4-0-1 since. First, they tallied a hard-fought 2-1 victory over a tough Polytech squad, then cruised by Laurel 8-1 and shutout Woodbridge 9-0 before a 0-0 tie against Dover last week.
Throughout the season, the Eagles have shown they have a lot balance on their roster and the results have played out on the field.
Offensively, the Lady Eagles have scored five or more goals in a game five times and overall 13 different Smyrna players have found the back of the cage at least once this season.
Senior Julie Snow and junior Alexis Moore both entered the week with a team-leading 11 goals apiece. Meanwhile, senior Madeline Wilber and junior Jessica Bergold have combined for 11 goals and 13 assists.
While senior Madison Steele has contributed five goals for the offense, she’s also helped lead a defense that’s kept all but two opponents to one goal or less, playing strong in front of senior goalie Katelynn Porter who has posted six shutouts.
“The girls are playing with a lot of heart and intensity. They’ve reached a level of comfort with each other and know that communication is a big component in winning games,” Shirey said. “They’ve learned to keep their composure on the field and trust each other. We’re family and they’ve kept the focus on their goals and not worrying about anything else. This mentality has given them confidence when playing tough games this season.”
After fighting their way to eight wins with three games to go, the Lady Eagles prepare to be tested in their final three games, all on the road, against Cape Henlopen, Lake Forest and Middletown who are combined 27-6-2.
“Playing strong teams to finish out is only going to make the girls play harder heading into the tournament,” Shirey said. “They would rather have these tough matchups as we prepare for a possible state tourney berth.”