Lady Bucks field hockey program headed in the right direction

Nearly every Wallenpaupack Area sports team utilizes the summer for some sort of informal, skill building program.

The Lady Buckhorn field hockey program is no exception. Last fall, the girls turned the tide after several seasons of marking just one or less wins.

They went 4-10 overall and beat out Abington Heights, Tunkhannock, and Pittston Area, staying out of the cellar in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1.

Not wishing just to keep out of last place but to build upon their gains last year, the Buckhorn ladies have been making the most of their off-season.

They not just helping themselves by taking part in clinics and summer leagues, but also took some time to lay down a foundation for the future of the program by hosting a camp for elementary school girls.

Foundation Building

Things got going way back at the end of May when 60 or so Paupack students from grades 2-7 attended the Wayne County Commissioners’ Camp. Also in attendance were a good number of varsity players who acted as mentors for the young players.

“We only had about half that number attend last year’s camp,” said head coach Maria Miller.

“It was a lot of fun. We were cutting sticks to make them short enough for some of the smallest girls that came. Our varsity players that helped out did a great job too.”

Skill Sharpening

Just as the Buckhorns are hoping to spark the interest in field hockey among younger girls, a number of incoming freshmen are showing interest in the program as well.

Taylor Brush got a taste of the game over the winter while playing in an indoor league for middle schoolers and now is coming to the semi-weekly intramurals.

Kayla Schmalzle, another freshman, had been a manager and previously practiced with the junior high team, but has now decided to pick up the stick and play.

Upperclassmen too are putting in the time to improve as well.

Seniors such as Laura Carr and Alissa Alexander not only come to better themselves, but as team leaders, are making the effort to boost the proficiency of the younger and less experienced members of the squad.

“I’m excited to see the mix of younger and older girls coming to the practices this summer,” said Carr.

Gaining Experience

“We’ve been working on a lot of things,” Alexander stated.

“Drives are a big thing and we’ve been getting better at taking shots and following up to the cage. Defensively, we’re getting stronger too.”

The Lady Bucks spent several Wednesdays playing in the King’s College league and towards the middle of August will head to Lake-Lehman for another preseason play-around.

Attendance to the Wednesday double-headers at King’s were good, according to Miller. Twelve or more were coming every week and the coach is pleased with the progress she’s seen in the team over the past several months.

“The younger girls are putting in the time and we’re seeing the older players becoming more serious about the game,” Miller said.

“I’m happy we’re getting more and more kids make commitments to the program. Many are hitting the weights, getting into conditioning programs, and playing in the off-season.

“The kids are stepping up and they’re keeping the program moving in the right direction.”

Looking Ahead

Paupack has shown slow but steady improvement in the fast few years.

Under the direction of Coach Miller and her dedicated staff, the Lady Bucks bounced back from back-to-back winless seasons to post a 4-10-0 mark last fall.

The Wyoming Valley Conference is divided into two brackets and the Lady Bucks have the misfortune of being lumped into a huge Division I along with 14 other teams.

Paupack must battle the likes of Lake Lehman, Wyoming Seminary and Crestwood during every regular season. Each of those programs has won multiple District Two titles and at least one PIAA state championship.

Weather permitting, the Lady Bucks will open their 2017 regular season slate on Wednesday, September 6 at home versus Hazleton.

The season runs through October 18, followed by the district tournament starting one week later.