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Joyce Endee

Junior class anchors Gilford stickers

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Junior Kelsey Buckley and the Lady Eagles hope to make it two years in a row in the postseason after returning last fall after a 15-year absence. File Photo. (click for larger version)
August 20, 2012
GILFORD It was a breakthrough season for the Gilford High School field hockey team in 2011, as the young Golden Eagles reached the postseason for the first time in 15 years before falling to Stevens High School in Division III action.

Fast-forward a year and most of that playoff team returns. Gilford graduated just one senior from last year's squad, and second-year coach Dave Rogacki has just one senior on this year's team as well, with the bulk of his squad entering their junior seasons as the team is slated to kick off the 2012 campaign on Aug. 28 against Franklin.

"Fifteen years is a long time to not get into the tournament so for them to do it mainly as sophomores is really good," said Rogacki. "Now it's about continuing that momentum and keep it moving forward. When you start to have that kind of success, you're going to attract kids to the program. We're still so young but the positive success they had and the ability to score more than just one or two goals a game makes you feel better about what you're doing. We're just working on trying to keep moving up the ladder."

There was certainly talent on last year's team, but to reach the postseason with such a young core was an outstanding accomplishment. This year's club hopes that success is only a sign of things to come moving forward.

"We didn't really have any expectations going into last year so to make it as far as we did was a big deal," said junior tri-captain Kelsey Buckley. "Our goal is to just improve this year. We know what everyone on the team can do after seeing it last year so I think we're just going to get better and better."

Buckley and fellow juniors Rachel Blandford and Mollie Dignan will serve as the Gilford captains, and the bulk of the team is also comprised of juniors with Ashlyn Miller, Catherine Buckley, Alea Webster, Emily Wernig, Kayla Orton and Becky Zakorchemny all returning with varsity experience. Kelsey Buckley and Zakorchemny tied for the team lead in goals a season ago. Senior Emily Arnold is the lone member of the Class of 2013.

"The team is so close, we know the strengths and we know what to expect out of each other," admitted Blandford, who will patrol the middle of the field for the Eagles.

Rogacki has plenty of talent in the younger grades, as sophomores Kendall Ames, Maddie Laflamme, Alyssa Hamberger and Emily Hanf all return, while classmate Karissa Cegelski joins the club for the first time. Freshmen Laura Zakorchemny, Logan Baxter, Hannah Saulnier, Mariah Nelson and Sophie Sherkanowski round out the underclassmen-skewed roster.

"It's a good mesh of kids," said Rogacki. "Those freshmen, the middle school coach does a great job teaching fundamentals and they understand and use the same vocabulary as far as positions go so that makes the transition easier from middle school to high school."

The one negative for Gilford is that the Eagles don't have the numbers to sponsor a JV program, though Rogacki is excited to watch the youngsters mature throughout the course of the season on his team.

"It would be nice to have the numbers to let those kids play at the JV level but a plus is they tend to learn quicker to play at the varsity level," he said.

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