SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — The Abington Heights field hockey team has improved upon its conference record for three consecutive seasons, finishing 4-6 last year.
“We’ve been building the past couple of years, so last year was a very successful season,” Abington Heights first-year head coach Laura Notarianni said. “We had a lot of people step up and show a lot of progress. We’re certainly rebuilding our team.”
Notarianni spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach to Amy Wojcik. Samantha Krut, who played field hockey at Abington Heights and Keystone College, is also working with the team as an assistant this year.
“There’s been a lot of changes and different approaches, and it’s been well-received,” Notarianni said. “We’re trying to build a very strong team concept. We stress sportsmanship on and off the field, responsibility and integrity.”
A reshuffling of the Wyoming Valley Conference will present additional challenges for the Lady Comets. The conference combined four divisions into two and Abington Heights moves from Division 2 to Division 1.
Along with former division foes Crestwood, Dallas and Tunkhannock, the Lady Comets are now joined by Coughlin, Delaware Valley, Hazleton Area, Honesdale, Lackawanna Trail, Lake-Lehman, Pittston Area, Wallenpaupack, Wyoming Area, Wyoming Seminary and Wyoming Valley West.
Crestwood, Coughlin, Lake-Lehman and Wyoming Seminary each won their respective divisions last season.
Crestwood claimed the District 2 Class 2A championship and didn’t suffer its first defeat until the semifinals of the state playoffs.
Coughlin won the District 2 Class 3A title and didn’t lose a match until the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
“Our goal is to give 150 percent toward each game, although we know our competition is very stiff this year,” Notarianni said.
The Lady Comets return seven starters in senior defender Emily Williams, junior midfielder Schuyler Smith, junior defender Audrey Cottell, junior forwards Phoebe Sebring and Mamie Dempsey, sophomore defender Nina Kozar and sophomore midfielder Arla Davis.
“We’re looking to improve and win the majority of our games,” Williams said.
Junior Ashlynn Fitzgerald, who played junior varsity last season, is expected to take over as the starting goaltender.
“She’s coming back off an injury, but is looking very strong and composed,” Notarianni said.
The team must replace forwards Ashley Mercado and Anna Baruffaldi along with goaltender Olivia Mendo, who all graduated, and midfielder Jessie Show, who moved out of the school district.
Despite the departures, Notarianni feels confident about the future of the program.
“We’re very excited with the group of freshmen coming up,” she said. “They have been undefeated for a couple years, so they have a lot of talent.”
Abington Heights will open its season with a division match at Lackawanna Trail at 4:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.