Practices have been underway for a week now, so we’ll really get in the swing of things in terms of previews. Earlier today I posted the team-by-team breakdowns. I’ll also look to postin outlooks for each class, players to watch and, of course, a preseason top 10 poll in the coming weeks.
I gave first-year John Jay coach Ali Steinberg a call to see how the Class B reigning sectional champions are shaping up. Here is my story.
If a program hopes to consistently be considered among the section’s elite, it needs to be able to adapt to graduation.
The best teams in the area deal with the loss of talented players by being able to insert another crop of capable athletes.
John Jay has been one of the best at that, finding ways to win over the past few years despite losing some of the best players in the entire section.
In 2012, the Indians managed to post a 12-5 record after graduating two-time all-American Casey Bocklet, who currently is on the Tewaaraton Award watch list.
The following year, John Jay reached the Class B semifinals despite losing another all-American to graduation the year before in Lauren Murray, who would go on to play in all but one game for Northwestern as a freshman en route to helping the Wildcats to the Final Four.
The 2014 season is no different with the graduation of Sarah Lang (78g, 40a), Molly O’Reilly (49g, 45a) and Delaney Spencer (49g, 36a). The trio accounted for more than half of the Indians’ goals last season.
“I think the great thing about this team is that we’ve already discovered so many ways to work around just someone, or two people, being singled out,” John Jay coach Ali Steinberg said. “It allows everyone else to kind of free up. The girls are some of the most selfless girls I’ve seen.”
Steinberg, who served as an assistant coach at Harrison last season, takes over the team from Christina Smith, who is coaching at Mamaroneck, where she teaches.
Offensively, senior Hanna Bocklet, who is committed to the University of Denver, and junior Amanda Flayhan (pictured above), who is committed to the University of Michigan, will be two of the leading candidates to fill the void left by Lang, O’Reilly, and Spencer. Senior Mary McAvey will also be a factor in the midfield. Junior Jilli Schell (San Diego State), who played a big role last season for John Jay on attack until dislocating her hip in the regional semifinals, is once again battling injuries after tearing her ACL in the fall.
On the defense, juniors Hannah O’Reilly (Cornell) and Emma Gorman will be “a force to be reckoned with,” according to Steinberg.
“I really don’t see any open holes that a lot of teams have,” Steinberg said. “It’s almost overwhelming to have that many good girls and have to decipher which role each girl is going to play. If that’s the biggest problem then we have no problems.”
Steinberg stressed how impressed she was with the hard work the entire team has been willing to put in since day one.
“So far it’s been unbelievable,” Steinberg said. “I’ve never seen girls as dedicated as they are. … They are a great group of girls.”