CR and Dover field hockey are preparing for their respective seasons, which are set to begin in two weeks.
Playing in a division that has produced two-time defending state field hockey champion Sussex Tech and perennial final four team Cape Henlopen, sometimes Caesar Rodney gets overlooked.
Still, the Lady Riders a season ago went 9-5-1 in the regular season and again qualified for the playoffs, where they unfortunately ran into the aforementioned Ravens and were bounced in the first round.
This season, head coach Maria Collier’s main goal is to win more than 10 games and improve her Riders’ seed come state tourney time.
“All of our games will be difficult and it is up to the athletes to take care of business during the regular season so that we can have a stronger showing during the tournament,” she said. “The Henlopen Conference is very strong and we do a good job of preparing each other to be successful against the teams up north.”
A lot of CR’s expected success this season hinges on the play of its senior class. Taylor Prillaman, Morgan Ripley, Miranda Hawkins, Rachel Grunden, Nikki Dowgos, Carlyn Talerica and Lynzi Yearick, Smith said, will be counted on to lead CR during its march toward the postseason.
“My entire senior class is very strong, so I am expecting that they will step up the intensity and tempo when it is needed,” Collier said. “Their passion, desire, drive and dedication has helped them improve the program each year.”
That improvement is partially due to the off-season work CR players put in. Extra camps, clinics and Futures were just part of what the Riders participated in between seasons.
“The dedication and passion that the girls have for the game will help them get through any rough patches that will come along the way,” Collier said
CR’s only perceived “weakness” is not much one at all, as the Riders are young in some areas. Several teams throughout the state, however, are dealing with the same issue. Collier, though, knows her younger players will need to develop quickly if CR wants to be in contention for a state championship.
“Our younger players are growing and maturing every day,” she said. “We need to get them up to speed as quickly as possible so that we can rotate them in. Being able to rotate strong athletes onto the field will help [ensure] every position stays consistent. The preseason is the time to build these abilities.”
St. Mark’s comes to Camden for a season opener with the Riders Sept. 10 for a game slated to begin at 11 a.m.
While senior leadership is a large reason CR expects to contend deep into the playoffs, rival Dover is hoping youthful exuberance can carry it through the season.
Only as many as three seniors are likely to start for the Lady Senators this year – captain Sarah Litchford and keeper Kaitlyn Felicianao are two certain – and junior Rhianna Dillon will be counted on for her experience and leadership as well.
“We were a young team last year, we’re still a young team this year,” head coach Denise Kimbro said. “We have a good group of sophomores, but they are still inexperienced.”
Kimbro is hoping that inexperience does not catch up with the team, as it plays games against Tech, Cape and CR in its own division. If the Senators can compete against those clubs and improve as they play, Kimbro said the season will be a success.
“On any given day…,” Kimbro said she continues to stress to the team. “You never know what could happen.”
Dover begins the season Sept. 13 with a 4 p.m. bout at Laurel.