NRHS looks to continue positive trend

Published 10:10 pm Friday, August 21, 2015

The Nansemond River High School field hockey team has been headed in a positive direction in recent years, and it looks to continue down that path this year with a largely experienced roster of players.

Junior back Mackenzie Roach will be a key part of Nansemond River High School’s defense during the 2015 season, which begins on Aug. 24 at Oscar Smith High School.

Junior back Mackenzie Roach will be a key part of Nansemond River High School’s defense during the 2015 season, which begins on Aug. 24 at Oscar Smith High School.

The Lady Warriors went 14-6 overall in 2014 and 7-0 against Ironclad Conference opponents, winning the conference regular season title and the conference tournament championship for the first time.

NR also reached the Region 4A South playoffs for the second straight year, advancing as far as the semifinals both times.

Email newsletter signup

Due to its large student body size, Nansemond River has moved up to the 5A classification this year.

“After finishing first in the conference last year, we’re switching to a new conference this year, and we don’t truly know what to expect,” NR field hockey coach Ali Mowry said. “We’re the only Southside team mixed in with all the other Peninsula schools.”

Nansemond River’s conference mates include Bethel, Gloucester, Hampton, Kecoughtan, Menchville and Warwick high schools.

“We know that Gloucester is a powerhouse,” Mowry said. “I watched them last year.”

The Lady Warriors’ regular season will still feature Southeastern District opponents up front, then the conference schedule will begin, just like the last two years.

Four girls from the 2014 Lady Warriors graduated earlier this year: forwards/midfielders Desiree Patterson and Juliana Stewart and midfielders Logan Crews and Alyssa Abele.

Despite this loss of experience, 11 of the 16 players on the 2015 squad are upperclassmen — six seniors and five juniors. They are joined by three sophomores and two freshmen.

“I think I’m veteran-heavy on the team, but I also have some ready-to-play rookies,” Mowry said. “Both freshmen and one of the sophomores play outside of the high school league, too.”

She noted she has a large group of big personalities and talented individuals on the roster this year, so the task at hand is for them to connect as a team.

“I definitely don’t think we’ve gone backwards since last year,” Mowry said. “We’re still headed in the right direction.”

Noticing that her team tends to drop five or six games in a season, she has set a goal for it to improve on its recent overall records. This will involve stepping up and grabbing victories against Southeastern District opponents like Hickory and Grassfield high schools.

As for Lady Warrior standouts this year, “I really expect a lot from that whole senior class,” Mowry said. “Three of the girls I’ve had since their freshman year.”

That trio consists of midfielder Claire Janek, defender Cali Valdivieso and midfielder/forward Jaclyn Mounie.

The other three seniors have been on the team since their sophomore years, and those players are goalkeeper Alex Wilde, outside back Avanna Williams and the especially versatile Ashley Hiltabrand.

“I’m still trying to find a definite spot for her,” Mowry said of Hiltabrand, having played her in the back lately.

Forward Ashlyn Rogers started games as a freshman and is expected to be a standout during her sophomore campaign.

“She’s always the first one out to practice before I even get there,” Mowry said, noting Rogers is working on her shooting. “At times, she’s staying after practice to work even longer.”

The coach will also be relying upon junior forward Ariana Samuel, junior back Mackenzie Roach and junior back/midfielder Victoria Czuprynski.

Freshman midfielder/forward Sarah Rhiel registers as a strong up-and-comer according to Mowry, who is significantly impressed with her level of skill.

“Her name will be in the paper, I’d assume, quite a few times,” Mowry said. “She knows how to control things in the midfield.”

The Lady Warriors start their season on Aug. 24 at Oscar Smith High School.