New players have key role as Panthers make hockey tourney again

CAMDEN — Sure, they had their doubts.

Polytech High’s field hockey team had graduated so many good players that were the nucleus of the program the last few seasons.

The Panthers just weren’t sure what the new players would do when they got their chance.

“You really don’t know what kind of players people are until you actually get in a game situation,” said senior Cam Dennis. “It’s a lot different from practices.”

But Polytech quickly found out that all those untested players were going to be just fine.

“Being 10th, you’re not expected to go all the way to the finals so we have that goal,” said Polytech senior Grace Stang. “There’s definitely less pressure. The postseason is fun. It’s familiar. I think we’ve upheld it (program tradition) a lot more than people thought we were going to.” (Delaware State News file photos)

“Being 10th, you’re not expected to go all the way to the finals so we have that goal,” said Polytech senior Grace Stang. “There’s definitely less pressure. The postseason is fun. It’s familiar. I think we’ve upheld it (program tradition) a lot more than people thought we were going to.” (Delaware State News file photos)

A 10-4-1 record has put the Panthers back in the DIAA state tournament where it will play a first-round game at Archmere today at 2:30 p.m. Polytech is seeded 10th while the Auks (11-4) are No. 7.

The Panthers have reached at least the tourney’s second round in each of the last six seasons, going to the state finals in 2014.

But if being a lower seed makes it an underdog this season, that’s fine with Polytech.

“I don’t think the pressure’s on us,” said coach Lynn Richardson. “I think it’s a good opportunity for these kids to get experience. … I’m pleasantly surprised but not surprised. This is a good group and I think we’ve developed a tradition that they want to continue.”

“It makes us want to win more,” said senior Grace Stang. “Being 10th, you’re not expected to go all the way to the finals so we have that goal. There’s definitely less pressure.

“The postseason is fun. It’s familiar. I think we’ve upheld it (the program’s tradition) a lot more than people thought we were going to.”

A first-year starter at midfielder, Stang admits she didn’t know what to expect from this year’s team.

Polytech graduated a pair of first-team All-Staters in Ali McKay and Jamie Trabaudo. There were a total of eight seniors on last year’s squad, which posted a record of 42-10-1 over the last three seasons.

There are five seniors on this year’s roster but also four freshmen and five sophomores.

Cam Dennis is Polytech’s leading scorer with 17 goals and six assists.

Cam Dennis is Polytech’s leading scorer with 17 goals and six assists.

“I didn’t think we were going to be as good as we are,” said Stang. “We’re a young team and we lost our main starters. It was kind of nerve-wracking.

“We play really well as a team. This is the first year where we’ve really needed every single one on the field. It really came together well and it works. The first game we were all like, ‘Whoa, we’re actually good.’”

“I kind of worried in the beginning because we were so young,” said Dennis. “But after our play day, I knew we were going to be fine. Everybody stepped up and did what they needed to do.”

Dennis is Polytech’s leading scorer with 17 goals and six assists. Junior Madi McKay has a team-high 16 assists with four goals with classmate Madison Knight adding 10 goals and three assists.

Sophomore goalie Holly Rembold has made 70 saves.

“I don’t think the pressure’s on us,” said Panthers coach Lynn Richardson. “I think it’s a good opportunity for these kids to get experience.”

“I don’t think the pressure’s on us,” said Panthers coach Lynn Richardson. “I think it’s a good opportunity for these kids to get experience.”

Four of the Panthers’ losses and tie came against teams that are in the state tournament (Cape Henlopen, Delmar, Milford, Lake Forest). The other setback came to Dover, which had enough points to qualify for the tourney but got bumped by an automatic qualifier.

Richardson is proud of what her players have accomplished.

“We have a nice combination of experienced kids that have been there,” she said. “And then we have some young hungry kids that have been waiting in the wings to get their shot.
“Our goal in the beginning was to make the tournament. Even with a rebuilding year, we wanted to make the tournament.”

“I feel like people probably thought we weren’t going to make the tournament — that we weren’t going to be as good,” said Dennis. “So we’re kind of like the underdog. But I’ve always had faith in our team. It’s nice, as a senior, to still be in the state tournament.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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