(Sept. 6, 2019) The Worcester Prep field hockey team is young and inexperienced this season after graduating six starters from last year’s squad, in addition to losing several players because of knee injuries and a few others transferred to different schools.
Since numbers are low across the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference this year as school enrollment is down, eighth graders have been permitted to play on varsity field hockey teams.
Of the 11 girls on Coach Katie Oxenreider’s roster, five of them are in eighth grade. Without those players, the school would not be able to field a team this year.
“It will probably be a tough transition, but by the end of the year I think they will improve,” she said.
Four of the five eighth graders do have field hockey experience, Oxenreider said.
“All but one played on the middle school team last year,” she added.
There is a range of talent this year, from girls who will play field hockey in college, to those who are picking up a stick for the first time.
The field hockey team finished with a 12-6 record last year. The Lady Mallards lost 3-1 to Holly Grove in the ESIAC championship.
Five players are back from last season, including 2019 senior captains Abbi Nechay and Rylie Carey. Both have been on the team since they were freshmen.
They also received All-Conference accolades for their performances during the 2018 season.
Nechay finished second on the team in scoring last year. She netted 10 goals and had seven assists.
“Since I’ve been on the team for four years I know how our team should work and how our standards are at Worcester,” she said. “I’ve been a captain since my sophomore year, so I’ve always been a strong leader. Especially with the eighth graders moving up, I feel like it’s a big year to step up as a leader more. I’ve always had girls above leading me, but now I’m the core leader for our group.”
Nechay, who will be in the midfield and on defense, said she is excited to play with her younger sister, Madilyn, an eighth grader, this year.
Although it is bittersweet, she is looking forward to having those special moments and games as a senior.
“We’re really hoping to dominate in the ESIAC and work together and build a better team, because we are a growing team this year,” she said. “We’re trying to [fill] positions and figure out where everyone is strongest at. Everybody has different contributions to add to the team, so it’s a big variety of who can help.”
Carey was also one of the top contributors last year. She tallied seven goals and had eight assists.
She will play in the midfield and as a forward, on the right wing, this season.
“I know how it feels to be a new girl on the team and with that experience I can welcome them and make them feel like this is their team and that they can be confident and mistakes are OK,” she said. “It’s refreshing to be a leader – it’s always great to be a leader – but it’s fun to just play your sport, do your best, lead everyone and bring them along with you.”
Carey said there are things the players need to work on – “just the basics” – but everyone is improving.
“With a few good practices, we can be our best and I think we’re going to come along really well,” she said.
She would love to get back to the ESIAC championship game and win the title this year.
“I want to get these girls a championship and hopefully I can lead them into that pretty well,” she said. “I’m excited, I’m ready. I think if we just [give it] our best effort we can really do some good things.”
Oxenreider, who is now in her fifth season as head coach, said the squad is solid in the backfield and in the midfield.
She said the new girls are getting better each day.
“They’re catching on. The older girls are helping them learn the game and working with them,” she said. “[The goal] is for the younger girls to improve their hockey knowledge, start to learn the game and strategies better. Once they see it on the field they’ll catch on.”
Stepping into the goal this year will be eighth grader Maggie McCabe. So far, Oxenreider has been pleased with her performance.
McCabe is not new to the sport as she plays on a club field hockey team, Oxenreider said. Madilyn Nechay has field hockey experience as well as she is also on a club team. She will play in the midfield for Worcester.
The Mallards will play the Holly Grove Eagles on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Westover.