Merion Mercy's Carly Keating has the ball as she moves upfield in a scrimmage against Episcopal Academy. ED HILLE / Staff Photographer.
By Don Beideman
Inquirer Staff Writer
It won't take effect until next year, but field hockey coaches in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, where girls' soccer has traditionally been played in the spring, are wondering what impact the PIAA's decision to hold only a fall state soccer championship will have on their sport.
For several years, the PIAA has conducted both spring and fall state playoffs, allowing girls at those schools at which soccer is played in the spring to play both sports. Now, those girls playing both sports will have to make a choice.
Schools in Chester and Delaware Counties have traditionally played girls' soccer in the fall.
"We knew this was coming, but it was not always a reality. Now it is," said Lisa Pennington, who was forced to step down this season as coach of Neshaminy's highly successful field hockey program because of a promotion she received in the school district.
"We have a solid program here, so we're hoping it won't effect us that much," she said. "The kids are going to have to make a choice. We're hoping those involved in field hockey will continue to stay with it."
Pennington said that Chelsea Rota, one of her top players last season when the Redskins won the District 1 Class AAA title, was also an outstanding soccer player.
"She would have had to make a choice next year," Pennington said.
Neshaminy is one of the larger schools in the Suburban One League, so it doesn't figure to be impacted as much as some of the smaller schools.
"We have several soccer players, and I'm hoping they'll stick with field hockey," said coach Lucy Gil of Wissahickon, a member of the Suburban One League's American Conference, for the smallest schools.
Gil said that since many girls have been playing soccer longer than field hockey, she thinks they will choose soccer.
"We've talked about the PIAA decision. I'm sad that it's happening," Gill said. "Personally, I think field hockey will suffer because it's a more difficult sport to pick up."
One of Gil's top players, sophomore Lauren Becker, is also a top-notch soccer player, so she will be among those making a decision.
"I've been thinking a lot about it because I like playing both sports," said Becker, who plays for prominent club teams in each sport as well as for her high school teams.
No matter what sport she plays, she's hoping to play at the Division I level in college.
"She's been very lucky because her club team coaches, Jeff Harding in field hockey and Dave Jones in soccer, have been very understanding," said Becker's mother, Lisa, a principal at Pennsbury and former field hockey coach. "The demands are heavy. It's her decision. We haven't tried to influence her one way or the other."
Hatboro-Horsham field hockey coach Marie Schmucker, who is returning this year after taking time off for cancer treatments, doesn't see a big effect on her team. The Hatters are members of the Suburban One League's Continental Conference, for midsized schools.
"It was just a matter of time before they switched to one [soccer] championship. I see more and more field hockey players doing lacrosse in the spring," Schmucker said. "We'll have to wait and see what happens. It is what it is. I've learned not to sweat the small stuff."