Change is the nature of the beast in high school sports, and the Williamsville East field hockey team is no different as they will look to move forward after losing some big pieces of the puzzle that helped them win ECIC II and get them to the Section VI Class B title game where they fell to Amherst, 1-0.
The Flames graduated not only top scorer Holly Schmelzer, they also lost the core of their starters on defense: Emma Stoddard, Autumn D’Amico, Madi Kowlowski and Emily Turton, and No.1 goalie Hannah Nurse.
But regardless of who has departed the goal is the same. Strive to be the best.
“We are hoping to continue with the momentum we had at the end of last season,” said head coach Erin Rajczak, who is now in her 10th season at Will-East.
The Flames will also count on other returning players; forwards Jenna Cavalieri, Maggie Meosky and Laura Kaplan. Midfielders Grace Pogorzala, Maddy Lane, Haley Metcalf and Jessie LoVallo. While all of those returnees will need to rise to the next level there is no doubt that the onus of leadership will mainly fall on the shoulders of senior Lauren Biondo, who is the only returning starter on defense.
“She has a big job to do,” Rajczak said.
Biondo will also serve as a mentor to another returning senior, Chelsea McNamara, who will transition from forward to defense this season. As well as the influx of talented young defenders up from JV.
Natalie Panzarella, Megha Pratapwar, Carlie Aquilino and Tessa Fabiniak. Randi Jones, a midfielder by trade, might also see a change in her position to defense.
Pressure will also be on sophomore Grace Burker as she takes over in net for the departed Hannah Nurse.
Senior forward Sydney Millace, who also returns, will look to play a bigger role this season.
As will fellow senior Emma Ulatowski who came over from the Will-East soccer program last season. Ulatowski will fill the role of ultimate utility player as she will slide in where ever she is needed.
Other new faces on the Flames roster this season are forwards Maria Patti and Aniya Evans, who transferred in from Williamsville-South.
Knowing that building chemistry on and off the field is vital to success the Flames spent a great deal of time together in the off season. They took part in several 7-on-7 scrimmages in Buffalo and Rochester, as well as the Friday Night Lights gathering at Sweet Home High School.
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