Entering the season with a strong and highly motivated senior class, the Bishop Eustace Prep field hockey team is determined to win the state championship.
Eustace has reached the title game of the Non-Public state tournament each of the last two seasons but suffered crushing defeats to Oak Knoll. In both games, Eustace played Oak Knoll close and lost each time by two goals.
Overall, there are five seniors returning for Bishop Eustace, and though it is a dynamic class head coach Danielle Senior will have to get the younger players ready to go.
"To say we are senior heavy would be somewhat untrue," Senior said. "We have great seniors, but we also have a lot of youth. It is going to be a season of utilizing the seniors the best we can in leading the team as well as trying to rebuild the program to get ready for when they are gone."
The regular season for Eustace begins Saturday against Camden Catholic, which is always a tough opponent. In order for the team to be fully prepared, Senior has had to overcome some obstacles and make sure the team is in great shape.
"I am a big believer in conditioning," Senior said. "There may be teams as conditioned, but no team will be more conditioned than us. I think we have a lot of skill as well, but I think the only way to execute it is with good conditioning."
"It is tough, but then we feel better in games because we can come out in the second half not as tired as the other team," senior forward Erin Quinn said.
Senior will have to deal with the loss of senior center midfielder Ashley Conklin, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament during the lacrosse season. Conklin was expected to be the glue in the middle of the field who would make sure everyone would be in position.
Losing an experienced player such as Conklin will make winning a state championship tougher for the seniors who will be playing, but they feel they are up to the challenge.
"We hope the younger players watch and learn from us," senior center midfielder Drew Pecora said.
"We are just trying to talk to the younger girls," senior forward Lexi DiGennaro said. "Make sure they feel comfortable and ready to play."
Bishop Eustace's top players realize they will have to stay focused and motivated the entire season if they want the chance to win a state championship. They cannot take anything for granted, especially dealing with five new starters, all of whom are sophomores.
"We had a couple rough scrimmages, but I think we have definitely brought it together," Pecora said. "The intensity is way higher, and we are practicing a lot harder."
The goal is to get back to the state championship and finish what they started. But they feel like there will be a different approach if the opportunity presents itself again.
"Last year we did not hype the game up as much, so we are going to try and build more excitement around it," DiGennaro said.
The players say they are prepared and ready to begin the season but realizes it will take time to fully develop together.
"I think we are taking one day at a time," Senior said. "I tell the girls it is not how you start, it is how you finish."