In sports, as in life, confidence is key.
And one thing that can help build that crucial poise is experience.
The Central York field hockey team will use the awareness gained during last year's successful season as it looks to capture its first division title since 2007. To do so, Central will have to first dethrone powerhouse Dallastown — a team with which it shared that '07 crown.
The Panthers bolstered their aplomb most thanks to a victory against the Wildcats in last season's District 3 Class AAA tournament. Central avenged two regular-season losses with a tight 0-0 game that was won 4-3 in penalty strokes before seeing its season end in the quarterfinals against Penn Manor.
"That was a big one. It was so much fun," Panthers coach Lori Livingston said of the triumph. "They just didn't have the confidence to believe it (before the game). Now I think they do, they know they can do it, but it's going to be a lot of hard work."
"It boosted it so much," Central York senior forward Greta Plappert said of defeating the Wildcats. "Because ever since middle school we wanted to beat Dallastown so much. And to beat them in districts totally boosted my confidence for this year. I just want to beat them again."
Reaching the York-Adams tournament title game for the first time also added some acumen to their game. Avenging the loss to Gettysburg in that game and finding more postseason success are Central's goals.
"Last year, I said 'You have to make the league championship your goal.' ... I don't think they ever believed it, and then they got there," Livingston said. "I'm just hoping we can continue that, get where we got last year, and of course, the ultimate goal is to win it."
Difficult task: Making the Panthers' path difficult this season is the loss of Division I Co-Player of the Year Paige Harrold. Central also must replace fellow first-team all-star Alexis Young.
Leading the way this season will be senior captain Plappert. The York College-bound forward recorded 10 goals and 12 assists in 2014. Also back is Plappert's co-captain, senior forward Amanda Miller.
"I feel like we have a really good team right now. Our passing is amazing," Plappert said. "It's going to be difficult because we lost some key payers, but hopefully we can fill the footsteps they left behind and get to districts."
Also returning for the Panthers is second-team all-star Sara Rilatt. Jenny Lawson and Maddy Forrester are back as well.
Steadying the defense will be goalie Abbie Timperio. The senior admitted her confidence in her game received a major boost from the district triumph over the Wildcats. Timperio made a number of key saves during a scoreless regulation and also came up clutch in penalty strokes.
Helping protect Timperio defensively will be second-team all-star Jordan Hershberger.
Like many, Plappert and Miller have their sights set on those clashes with Dallastown. But, as usual, taming the Wildcats will be no easy task.
Coach Jeri Myers, the Co-Coach of the Year in Division I last season along with Livingston, returns what she called "one of my best overall skilled team's I've ever coached."
"We want to win the division, return to winning the county championship, and we want to be able to do well at districts and get out of the first round and hopefully get to states this year," Myers said.
The three-time defending division champs will try for the programs third four-peat. It completed the task when it won five straight division crowns from 1996-2000. The other time it did it was from 2003-2006. The Wildcats had a third try from 2008-2010 before seeing title No. 4 denied by Red Lion in 2011.
Gone from last season's team is Division I Co-Player of the Year Bryna Cook. Also graduated are first-team all-star Haylee Anders and second-team selections Jenna Abrahamsen and Karley Andrews.
Back to power the Wildcats' attack is senior center midfielder Maggie Noll. The all-star posted eight goals and six assists last season.
Also returning for Dallastown are second-team all-star Lydia Trout, Olivia Talley, Danielle Ludwig, Molly Lohss, Jordan Bertok and Caroline Doll.
Syd Terroso will be back in the net for the Wildcats.
"We have a really good core returning, they complement each other. We have more than just one person that can take a shot on goal, we have several," Myers said. "So that's what's really nice. You might try to shut down Maggie, but then I got five other people you got to try to shut down."
Elsewhere, Red Lion loses all-star Paige Taylor but returns senior all-star Jayla Godfrey. The speedster scored 14 goals and added three assists last year. Second-team all-stars Jackie Golden and Kynslee Sheperd also are back for the Lions — who return seven starters to a team that finished third in Division I.
South Western has a huge hole to fill in net, losing four-year starter and all-star netminder Hannah Glover to graduation. However, first-team all-star Montana Utz and second teamers Allie Bentley and Bailey Moses are all back for the Mustangs.
Division II: The Gettysburg Warriors made their debut in the York-Adams league a successful one in 2014, winning the Division II title as well as the league's postseason championship.
The Warriors will be without Division II Player of the Year Maggie Fees, who led the team with 12 goals and five assists. They also lose all-stars Sydney Tomassini and Emma Bahm.
Gettysburg will see a pair of all-stars return in Megan Miller and Katelyn Gormley, who figure to be key in any possible title defense.
West York could provide some divisional competition for the Warriors. However, the Bulldogs lost 11 seniors from last season's squad.
All-star Maddison Miller is back, as well as second-team all-star Paige Gembe. The Bulldogs also benefit from the return of Ally Williams and Nicole Stough.
"We are going to be strong defensively," coach Amanda Steigleman said. "And we'll need to find someone who can finish and crash pads."
Anchoring the defense for the Bulldogs is junior goalie Chloe Smith, who's been in the cage for West York since her freshman season.
Susquehannock, who returns first-team all-stars Camryn Burke and Kristy Langham, as well as second-teamer Brooke Morris, and Kennard-Dale, who welcomes back first-team all-star Emmie Dressell and second teamers Lindsay Dell and Elizabeth Six, also figure to push the Warriors.
Division III: Division III has existed in York-Adams field hockey since 2004. Bermudian Springs has won, or shared, every division title but one. That lone instance came in 2006 when Biglerville captured the crown.
With a number of experienced players returning, and only three of them seniors, Bermudian doesn't seem ready to relinquish its grip on the division's top spot.
Senior first-team all-stars Mackenzie Farley and Lindsay Brehm return to join fellow first-team selection junior Nicole Wolf. Senior Morgan Williams and sophomore Olivia Blasone are second-team honorees who also return from last season's 16-3 campaign.
Senior goalie Sarah Crane is the lone all-star the Eagles lost to graduation.
— Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com; @EADispatch on Twitter
From the vault: Central York defeats Dallastown in District 3 Class AAA first round: