Last season, first-year head coach Jodi Stone took over the Indian River field hockey program with the intention of turning it around and establishing consistency after years of coaching turnover.
Now in her second year, she’s joined again by the same coaching staff, looking to build off not only last season, but some summer programs including the camps and drop-in games established over the off-season.
“We’ve laid the groundwork. Last year was kind of building the foundation, and we’re building off of that foundation this year — and it’s consistency,” Stone explained. “We’ve had the same coaching staff now two seasons in a row, so I think that’s a big plus. Hopefully, we’re moving down the right path.”
While the team was more competitive last season compared to recent years, offensive production was one of the weaker areas of their game. However, goal scoring was no problem for the Lady Indians last Tuesday, Sept. 2, in a scrimmage against Stephen Decatur, as the offensive attack looked nearly unstoppable against the Lady Seahawks.
Two of those goals came from sophomore returner and softball standout Madi McGee, who will be joined by junior and spring teammate Callie McDowell, senior Sarah Buchler, senior Maggie Allison and junior Paiton Murray as a few of the key returning players from last year’s squad.
“I think the difference is our upperclassmen’s leadership. We have a great bunch this year,” said Stone. “They’re positive. They communicate. They’ve really made the newcomers feel welcomed. They want the younger players to love the game as much as they do, so they’re very encouraging and very positive.”
Some of those newcomers joining the team include junior goalkeeper Emma Engel, who has never played the sport before but has adjusted well using her skills as a soccer player.
“She’s really impressed all four of us,” Stone said of the response from the coaching staff. “Never played hockey before — she’s a soccer player but she’s taking all those tools that she used in soccer and is applying them to hockey, and she’s done a fantastic job.”
Engel will be joined by fellow junior keeper Madison Thune, who makes her return after seeing some time in the cage for the Lady Indians last season.
Aside from the different outlook on the season in comparison to recent years, the program will also benefit from a large freshman class and what Stone said is a more distinctive varsity and JV roster.
“We have a big freshman class coming in, and out of the 10 freshman, at least three or four have never played before, so they’re starting from scratch,” Stone noted. “We’re sitting at the same numbers. It’s more balanced.”
The Lady Indians will start their season this Friday against Woodbridge at Indian River High School at 3:30 p.m. They’ll then hit the road on Monday to face Holly Grove Christian School before returning home the following week to face Polytech on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 4 p.m. and Lake Forest on Thursday, Sept. 12, also at 4 p.m.
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