Local travel team organization keeps on growing and excelling
While the high school season is officially over, field hockey action on the local scene is just starting to heat up.
Under the direction of veteran coaches and former Honesdale players Becca Maciejewski and Grace Manzione, Pursuit Field Hockey is ramping up activities for the winter.
This elite travel team program is based at the Sports Factory of NEPA in downtown White Mills.
There, talented players of all ages are honing their skills with an eye toward raising their game to the next level.
According to Coach Maciejewski, players from U10 through U19 have been hard at work all through the fall and are now settling in for a long winter's workout.
Becca is especially pleased with the influx of younger girls, many of whom are translating what they've learned from the practice field to school competition.
“We are starting to see the direct impact of our Pursuits' dedication as these young kids move into school programs,” she said.
“They are now coming in with experience and knowledge of the game and taking our high school and junior high teams to exciting new heights.
Pursuit is working hand-in-hand with local schools; a perfect partnership that seems to be paying huge dividends.
“We'd like to thank our neighboring school programs for their support,” Becca said.
“The huge outpouring support we have in this area is scheming to steal the thunder from the dominance of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre teams. And, it all starts with an opportunity like this to put a stick in hand of a young girl.
“Once that fire is lit, the rest is history. Our Pursuit is just beginning, but already starting to make our mark and we are so proud of that!”
Organizers and coaches at the Sports Factory have traveled the nation and the world, accumulating invaluable experience and making unrivaled field hockey connections.
One recent example of how vital such networking can be came just this past week when a very special guest arrived on the scene in White Mills.
Lauren Powley, a member of the United States Olympic field hockey team, paid a visit and spoke to an understandably excited group of Pursuit players.
Powley hails from NEPA and played her high school field hockey at Wyoming Seminary. She starred at the University of Maryland and, as a senior co-captain, led the Terrapins to an NCAA national title.
She's been a member of the US National Team since 2005 and competed in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
There were more than 40 players in attendance for Lauren's clinic, divided into three divisions ranging in age from U10 to U19.
Each session lasted an hour, followed by a 15-minute Q&A period when Lauren posed for photos and signed autographs.
Coaches Maciejewski and Manzione were thrilled with the turnout and with the level of professionalism Powley brought to the Sports Factory.
“Lauren showed our kids an attention to detail and tactic and made it very personal,” Becca said. “She gave great feedback and purpose to each drill. Our players definitely left this experience as better players and sportswomen.
“Lauren remarked that our kids have great skills, but the one thing that she saw in them was their excitement and love for the sport of field hockey.
“That comment made us most proud.
“From a coaching standpoint, Grace and I were thrilled to offer this opportunity to our Pursuit Program. We're proud of the skills they've worked so hard on.”
While the temperature outside continues to fall, action with Pursuit Field Hockey at the Sports Factory is just heating up.
Coach Maciejewski reports that this year's “Friday Night Under the Lights” was a resounding success.
This four-week training program was tailored for the younger players, giving them a chance for both one-on-one attention and exciting on-field action.
The first half of each session focused in on a specific theme. After this intensive instruction, the girls were turned loose for their favorite aspect of the program, the whimsically entitled “Friday Night Fights.”
This was a weekly 3v3 tournament with each session's winners taking home hard-earned trophies.
“The girls loved it!” Coach Maciejewski exclaimed. “The games were competitive and the athletes were motivated to win. It also touched on the early stages of team building, which will fuel their love of the sport as they grow older.”
Maciejewski and Manzione were ably assisted during this program by assistants Mychaela "Mickey" Johannes and Megan Gustafson.
All four instructors were thrilled with the progress they saw, in addition to the raw enthusiasm for the sport they encountered on a nightly basis.
“From a coaching standpoint, their excitement grew each week, as did their understanding of the game,” Becca said.
“They were a wonderful bunch of girls to work with and so many of them definitely have a future in this sport.”