By Kevin Eickman
Prior to the start of last year’s Milford field hockey season, expectations were somewhat tempered. With only one senior on the squad, Buccaneers coach Andrea Fleming-McPike was hoping to use last season as a learning experience. Learn is exactly what the Buccaneers did last season. Learn how to win that is, finishing the year with a 9-6-1 record.
“The girls really gave it their all last season, they really dug deep and learned that they have what it takes to be winners,” Fleming-McPike said. “They met every challenge put in front of them and as a result they made the playoffs. To top it off, they left it all on the field against a Wilmington Christian team that made it to the State semi-finals.”
With almost the entire team returning this season, Milford has raised the bar on itself. In the eyes of coach Fleming-McPike, last season was just a stepping stone for this year. “This year, this program is always about getting better. Last year was good, but everyone knows that we want to do better, that’s the goal,” she stated.
Part of the plan for improvement is the participation of the players in voluntary summer programs. With 20 Buccaneers playing up in the Dover summer league, it offers them the chance to hit the ground running when the school year starts. “That kind of participation demonstrates how committed they are to improving their games,” Fleming-McPike stated. “They came into camp ready to play, with advanced skills and in great shape. Coming in ready to play like that, in shape and with solid skills is a huge boost for everyone.”
Another benefit of having so many returning players is leadership. Having players that know the system, know what is expected of people is serving to lighten the load on the coaching staff. “We have players that are natural leaders, if they see something that needs to be corrected they make sure that the player knows what they should be doing in that situation,” said Fleming-McPike.
Some of the returning players that are demonstrating leadership are seniors Rajene Bowe, Kate Melvin, Hayden Shockley along with junior Darby Brennan and Leah Barnett. Each of them are solid players and all of them have improved over last season. “These girls come ready to play every day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s practice or a game, they come prepared to do their job,” Fleming-McPike stated.
Barnett improved steadily at goal keeper last season and it is hoped that she will continue her improvement. When asked about her, Fleming-McPike believes that she has what it takes to turn in a stellar season. “She is in such great shape and she has improved her skills by leaps and bounds over the course of the summer,” she said. “Leah has the makings of a very special goal keeper and I can’t wait to watch her in the net.”
While the upperclassmen are important, the underclassmen are chipping in as well. “We expect everyone to be able to lead, to understand what needs to be done. That is what this team is all about, everyone chipping in and doing their job,” Fleming-McPike stated.
In a twist on scheduling this year, Milford will face rival Lake Forest up at the University of Delaware on October 1, with a 7:30 start. “Getting a chance to play under the lights at UD against your rival should be the makings of an awesome night. They beat us last year so we know that we are going to have our hands full when we go up against them,” said Fleming-McPike.
The Buccaneers will open at Appoquinimink September 9 at 3:45pm, before they host Woodbridge on the September 13, with a 4pm start.
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