The Pine-Richland field hockey team is only a handful of games deep into its 2019 season but has still managed to topple some of the toughest programs that Western Pennsylvania has to offer.
The Rams (5-0, 1-0) have knocked off North Allegheny, Norwin and North Allegheny — all top five teams in their division last season — in nonsection play. On top of that, coach Donna Stephenson’s team also has defeated Ellis, the Class A runner-up from last year, and Upper St. Clair in their Division I tilt. Still, Stephenson considers her group to be a work in progress at this early juncture.
“It really helps to have a lot of returning players that are used to their position, which we do have, but every year there’s always the reset,” she said. “It takes a while for players to get used to playing next to each other again since it’s been a year since they’ve last been in game action together. It takes some time to settle in, but we’re still improving.”
Much of the team’s success stems from their strong midfield grouping, headlined by junior Ella Rottinghaus, who is receiving recruiting attention from numerous Division I programs.
Rottinghaus and her fellow midfielder Ava Loskoch, a senior and Allegheny College commit, were named to the All-WPIAL Division I first-team last year. The rest of the Rams’ experienced core of midfielders is filled in by Alexa Sharron, a Christopher Newport University commit, and senior Heidi Van Dyk.
On the back line, Pine-Richland is receiving quality play from senior Keegan Kline, a Slippery Rock commit, as well as juniors Elaina Camino and Natalie Loftus. The trio is working together to make life easier for senior goalkeeper Abby Baratka, who is also exploring her collegiate options for field hockey.
Meanwhile, the Rams’ forward play has been buoyed by junior Jordan Landreneau and sophomore Riley Kirby, who is stepping into a significant role after playing junior varsity last season. The two are tied for the team lead in goals with three. Freshman Mary Wymard, another newcomer to the lineup, is coming along nicely as a starting forward, according to her coach.
Freshman Danielle Deer and senior Jordan Mullay are also chiseling out meaningful roles on the Rams roster as reserves.
With a roster that is brimming with talent, Pine-Richland is striving to achieve its third consecutive WPIAL Division I championship game appearance this season. That’s the goal, according to Stephenson, but in the meantime, she says there is plenty of work to be done.
“We set goals every year. They want to win WPIALs. They want to be a cohesive team. They want to go farther in states,” she said.
“But when you set those goals, you have to work toward them. We’ve got a lot of tough teams on the road to WPIALs and in order to get through them, we’ll have to keep improving. All these teams are getting better. Our division is strong. It’s hard to get through, but we’ll keep improving, too.”