FIELD HOCKEY PREVIEW: Saline's Top Scorers Return as Hornets Aim to Improve
The Erica Reilly era of Saline Field Hockey is over. Coach Reilly, who transformed the Saline program into a state leader, officially stepped down from the team last year. In her stead is a protege - Sophia O’Connor.
O’Connor was a speedy player on the defense for the Hornet team that won the state championship in 2015. O’Connor graduated from Concordia University and returned to Saline and learned more from Reilly last year as a junior varsity coach. Now, hired as a special education teacher at the high school, O’Connor is coaching the varsity squad.
“It’s great to be back in the district and super exciting to be back in the district with my old teachers,” O’Connor said. “Coaching under Erica last year was super awesome. I’m very excited to take over the program now.”
The Hornets went 3-4 in Division 1 last year and 7-7 overall. Saline upset Huron in the quarterfinal before falling to top seed Dexter in the semifinal. Last year was the first season without any of the Division-1-bound Reilly sisters starring for the Hornets since 2013. The transition to a younger roster was made even more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, the Hornets battled their way to a solid season.
The Saline varsity field hockey team is pictured. In front are goalie Megan Clauser, Madeline Nishioka, Lauren Miller, Audrey Portwood, Lola O’Connor, Caroline Clark, Maya Prasad, Madeleine Schreiber, and Catherine Kent. In the second row are Avery Caroll, Payton Maloney, Jessica Everett, Johanna Walder, Tenley Schrzan and Cailee Jarvey. In back are coach, coach Eric Boyd, coach Courtney Reed, Jade Popovitz, Ella Talladay, Nicole Warren, Emelia Little, Emily Hornberger, coach Abigail Martin and coach Sophia O’Connor.
The Hornets graduated key players last year, including captain Shae Murphy and goalie Abby Kleinschmidt. But Saline returns its top five goal scorers from last season.
Senior Maya Prasad led the Hornets with seven goals and seven assists last year. Right behind her were Tenley Schrzan (5G, 6A) and Emelia Little (5G, 5A).
Those three are your senior captains this year.
Junior Payton Maloney (4G, 2A) had a monster summer, winning gold at the AAU junior nationals.
“They are our core group. They play field hockey year-round. We’re going to keep them in our middle and have our younger players around them, and able to learn from them,” O’Connor said.
Prasad was part of the leadership group last year. She returns as a midfielder.
“Maya has all the skills. She can sweep. She can aerial She can reverse chip. She can do everything,” O’Connor said. “Defensively, she has a presence out there.”
Little is likely the most skilled stickhandler on the team, with the ability to maneuver in and out of tight spaces.
“She’s got great small stick skills on offense. She also has long reach and can stop girls from coming down the field and steal balls and turn the play around,” O’Connor said.
Schrzan - a track star for the Hornets in the springtime - uses that speed and power to score goals for Saline.
“Tenley is extremely fast. She can make those runs to get to the long through balls. And she’s a great tipper too,” O’Connor said.
Maloney, like Prasad, is another girl who watched her older sister in the program. Where her older sister scored goals around the net, Peyton plays midfield.
“She’s a workhorse for us. She goes and gets the ball back for us and then moves it up the field to the girls who score the goals,” O’Connor said.
Sophomore Lauren Miller (4G, 1A) rounded out the top 5 scorers last year.
Miller is part of a promising sophomore class that’s well represented on this varsity team.
“We have a big group of sophomores and we’re going to keep building them as we go,” O’Connor said.
It’s early in the season, so everything is subject to change. But a starting lineup might have Emily Hornberger at left wing, Little at center and Schrzan on the right wing.
At midfield, you’ll see Prasad on the top, Johanna Walder on the bottom, Maloney on left and Brooke Alexander on the right.
The team’s trying to replace Shae Murphy on defense, so things may fluctuate Track star Nicole Warren, a junior, figures to see a lot of time. Sophomore Lola O’Connor, the coach’s sister, will play, and so will junior Madeleine Schreiber.
In goal, sophomore Megan Clauser takes the reins.
“Megan stepped in for us last year when Abby got hurt, and despite never having played goal before, she played great,” said assistant coach Eric Boyer. “She’s worked very hard to improve in goal.”
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