STROHECKER: Dallastown field hockey tradition lives on
- Dallastown has won 10 of the last 11 York-Adams Division I titles in field hockey.
- The program has won three of the last four Y-A League titles and three of six overall.
- The Wildcats will face several District 3 foes during the regular season in the Keystone Cup.
Before every season, Dallastown field hockey coach Jeri Myers tells her players the same thing: "Tradition never graduates."
It sets in stone what is expected of each individual player in continuing the long legacy of success in Wildcats field hockey. It's a tradition that has seen the program win 10 of the last 11 York-Adams League Division I titles and three of the past four league championships.
There's a standard of excellence that each team has to live up to, and the banners hanging around the high school gym are a reminder of that. Anything less than a league title and a berth in the District 3 playoffs isn't acceptable. It ultimately comes down to pride among the players.
"We have a reputation and you want to uphold it because you don't want to be the one year that messes it up," senior Molly Lohss said during Friday's Y-A League Fall Sports Media Day.
Unheralded success: The long-sustained dominance that Dallastown has enjoyed stems from two sources.
The first comes from Myers, the longtime head coach for the Wildcats, who every year, reminds her players of their ability to be great.
"Coach Myers always keeps us confident, but humble," senior Caroline Doll said on media day. "She speaks of winning like we can do it because, I mean, we can do it and it's just nice having her support and not pressuring us, but having that faith."
The second comes from a feeder system that extends down into the elementary school ranks, starting players in the sport years before they reach the varsity level. Not only do the systems used with the high school team get ingrained in the players at a young age, but so does the winning.
Once they get involved with the program at a young age, the girls begin to see the success the program has accomplished and it's something they want to be part of. So, when several of the current varsity team members had to make a choice in middle school on whether to continue playing soccer or field hockey, the choice was simple. While the girls' soccer team at Dallastown is successful in its own right, it doesn't quite measure up to what the field hockey team has established, and it's something they all want to continue.
"You look at all the Future Champs (camps) and how early we start the kids playing," assistant coach Molly Senft said. "They have an interest in it right away. We have a feeder program that's excellent. We have camps for kids going into fourth grade and so they're exposed to it right away and then they see the success of these older girls as they come up through and they want to be just like that and contribute to it."
Taking the next step: Yet, even with all the success that the Wildcats have seen over recent decades, once they get to the district level, the success hasn't continued. State berths are relatively rare.
While the Dallastown program regularly dominates within the bubble that is the Y-A League, when it steps outside of the local league and is forced to play some of the other regional powerhouses from the Mid-Penn Conference and Lancaster-Lebanon League, the Wildcats often fall short.
Lancaster is known for its field hockey. After all, the training center for the U.S. national team is located at Spooky North in Manheim. In the Mid-Penn, you have teams such as Lower Dauphin and Palmyra that have dominated their respective divisions, much like Dallastown, but have then gone on to continue that success at the state level.
In order to get to that level, the Wildcats are branching out, taking part in the Keystone Cup, a competition that features teams from the L-L League and the Mid-Penn Conference to serve as a tune-up for later in the season come district playoffs. This year, the Wildcats will face Hempfield, Governor Mifflin and Lower Dauphin in the Keystone Cup to get a better sense of how the team will stack up once postseason time rolls around.
"That's going to hopefully better prepare us for when we do advance on to districts and play those teams we're not used to seeing," Senft said. "A lot of it is mental, like Molly (Lohss) said. ... I think that's going to help with that this year for us to see them and know that we can hold our own."
Each of the four seniors present at media day on Friday — Doll, Lohss, Sydney Terroso and Sophie Beeler — had their own individual goals and expectations that they hoped to accomplish in their final year with Dallastown.
But, they all agreed that they want to continue the same winning legacy that they were raised to expect, and they want to leave behind that legacy for the next wave of Dallastown players.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com