Four former Honesdale High School field hockey stars have taken their skills to the next level as members of the Keystone College varsity squad. Assistant Coach Kellina Yarrish is mentoring LeeAnna Bennett, Brittany Cardona and Justine Firmstone as the 2012 NCAA season dawns.
LaPLUME — Honesdale's field hockey program has steadily grown in size and prominence over the course of the last two decades.
With Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame coach Dennis Longenecker at the helm, the Lady Hornets rose from relative obscurity to become a legitimate playoff threat in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
When Coach Longenecker retired, he handed the reins to former start Becca (Henderson) Maciejewski who promptly took Honesdale to the next level. Just two years into her tenure as head coach, the Lady Hornets advanced to the District Two Class AAA semifinals and came within a whisker of a berth in the championship game.
Not surprisingly, Honesdale players are beginning to make inroads at the intercollegiate level. Case in point: Keystone College.
On the Rise
The Giants only recently established field hockey as a major sport and former Lady Hornet standout Kellina Yarrish has been there from the beginning.
Yarrish was a 4-year starter and WVC all star during her high school years. Kellina then went on to play at East Stroudsburg University before transferring to LaPlume. She was on the field when Keystone picked up its very first NCAA victory, a thrilling 3-2 in over Bryn Mawr in overtime.
Over the course of the next two seasons, Yarrish piled up athletic and academic honors while helping the Giants to an overall 24-11 record.
Kellina graduated with a degree in Elementary/Special Education and was quickly welcomed back into the fold as assistant to head coach Kacey Manning. Yarrish is an eternal optimist and is eagerly anticipating another successful CSAC campaign.
"I'm really excited that the season is finally here," she told TWI Sports. "The league is pretty tough this year and we got off to kind of a rough start, but I know we can bounce back."
Keystone suffered a 5-0 loss to King's College in its first regular season match.
"I think that was a real eye-opener for us," Yarrish said. "We're definitely a young team, but we're focused and working extremely hard."
In addition to Yarrish, three more Honesdale grads will be playing key roles for Keystone's field hockey program this fall.
LeeAnna Bennett, Brittany Cardona and Justine Firmstone are already making their presence felt as the CSAC campaign dawns.
"All three of them are awesome," Yarrish said. "LeAnna, Brittany and Justine all have the potential to be starters for us. They're good players and they all have a great work ethic."
Bennett is a third year player who sees most of her minutes on defense. LeAnna is an accounting major and an imposing presence at six feet.
"She's a leader both on and off the field," Yarrish said. "LeeAnna is excellent at block/tackling. She's big and physical, but she's very quick, too."
Cardona's main asset as a high school player was her blinding speed and that quality is translating well at the intercollegiate level.
"Brittany plays forward for us and she's super quick," Yarrish said. "She is always upbeat and positive. Brittany keeps everyone smiling. She does a little dance every time she scores..."
Firmstone is battling back from two ACL surgeries that ravaged her scholastic career. Justine is finally through with re-hab and appears ready to make a serious contibution at Keystone.
"If Justine stays healthy, she can really help us," Yarrish said. "She's incredibly tough and she has a very strong field hockey background."
Keystone's field hockey team prides itself on positive involvement in the community.
With coaches Manning and Yarrish leading the way, the Giants are once again working hard to raise funds and awareness for several worthy causes.
On Saturday, Keystone will square off against the University of Scranton.
Before that contest, which begins at 3:30 p.m. in the Electric City, Giants players and coaches will participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Fun Walk. Afterward, donations will be accepted at the game...all of which go to the fight against cancer.
Next week, on the anniversary of 9/11, Keystone is back in action for a game against Vassar. Before the start of this contest, the Giants will be asking fans to donate items that can be included in care packages.
These packages will be sent to US troops serving overseas.
Every person who makes a contribution will receive a free t-shirt as thanks from the team.
For further information on Keystone field hockey or either of these events, contact Kellina Yarrish at email@example.com or 570-945-8237.