Old Town High School field hockey coach Courtney Lanham returned just two starters off last year’s Class B North championship team.
She now has four freshmen and a sophomore in her starting lineup, and one of the four senior starters — left back Kameil Nicolar — is playing field hockey for the first time after playing soccer.
But Lanham thinks her team has the potential to be in the mix for another regional title despite its inexperience.
“The girls have a chance to go far if they stay focused and are willing to work hard,” said Lanham, who guided the team to its first regional title since 1988 in her first year last fall. “We’re young but the girls are willing to learn and ready to do great things.”
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The Coyotes won their first four games before losing to Hermon 2-1 and to Class A Bangor 1-0 in overtime. They have allowed just four goals in their six games and have three shutouts.
Old Town is looking for its 10th consecutive winning season, having posted an impressive 90-34-2 record in regular season games over the previous nine seasons.
“So far, I have really been impressed by our team,” said standout senior center midfielder and tri-captain Grace Willey, who is a game-changer and a nightmare for opposing backs with her impressive skills and speed. “It’s definitely hard losing all of those starters but we’ve been playing really well. We work hard in practice. Everybody is learning every day.”
Willey is one of two returning starters, although she was a forward last season.
“[Willey] is a tremendous player,” said Bangor coach Jay Kemble. “The one thing they really do well is they defend well. They keep their sticks down, they move well, they communicate well.”
A key to Old Town’s defensive stinginess is the emphasis Lanham places on it.
“Everybody defends, even the forwards,” said Lanham, whose Coyotes didn’t allow a goal in the playoffs last year until they lost to Leavitt of Turner 1-0 in the state final.
The Coyotes are tenacious all over the field.
Sophomore goalkeeper Amara Francis has inherited the job from the departed Chelsey Cote and Lanham said she has been impressed with her play.
“She does a good job tracking the ball and staying with it,” Lanham said.
She has two freshmen defenders in Sophia Morgan and speedy Olivia Barthelemy, along with seniors Nicolar and tri-captain Taylor Dow.
Dow is the other returning starter and she has been moved from right back to sweeper.
“She is the captain of our back line,” said Lanham. “And Kameil has so much fire and intensity. She works hard.”
Willey is the catalyst in the midfield, where she is surrounded by junior Danica Flewelling and freshman Taylor Loring.
Freshman Natalie Fournier is the central striker and she is accompanied up front by senior tri-captain Kayleigh Wagner and junior Karma Ruggeri.
Ruggeri, Flewelling and Wagner saw a lot of duty off the bench a year ago.
Willey and Wagner have been the team’s leading scorers.
Key reserves on this year’s team include senior Natalie Baker and freshman defender Lily Rand.
Lanham would like to see her team find the back of the cage more as the Coyotes have scored just eight goals in six games.
They had eight penalty corners in the 1-0 loss to Bangor but failed to convert.
“We’re getting there. They all want to work hard and that’s all I can ask for,” she said. “The last two games were obviously tough losses but they were definitely games to learn from.”