The reality of the 2012 season for the Lake Forest High School Scouts Field Hockey team is this: the most challenging opponent they face might be players on their own roster.
After losing four all-state players off last season’s state runner-up team (Kelsey Adams, Katherine Skinner, Lauren Yarkony and Lina Trucco), the Scouts coach believes they will be deeper this fall.
“We have a strong junior class. Our talent pool is ridiculously deep,” Melanie Walsh, in her fifth year as head coach, said.
Consider this: at a recent morning scrimmage, there was no scoring. This is in contrast to recent years when the talent disparity would heavily favor the starters.
“We told our girls their hardest days should be when they scrimmage each other. And the easier day is when we play the other teams,” Walsh said. “We’re not saying that to say we are the best team out there yet, but we will work really hard in practice for whatever we see out there.”
Scouts Are 23 Deep
And what you will see on the field is a team that will go 23 players deep, with heavy rotations. Adopting more of an ice hockey line-shift system, Walsh and assistant coach Julie Chantler will shuffle in several flights throughout the course of a game.
Seniors and three-year varsity players Morgan Dever, Katie Sullivan, Jessica Staton, Lauren Graves and Brenna Carberry make up the Scouts veteran core. Dever will be taking her talents to the University of Michigan in 2013 and Sullivan will be attending Colgate.
Making up the Scouts impressive junior class is Val Wood, Emily George, Nicole Beshilas, Jenny McGowan, Katherine Kallergis, Payton Mickey, Elizabeth Zavitz and goalie Chandler Scoco. Returning juniors include Emily Cavalaris, Mackenzie Mick, Mackenzie Adams and Halle Frain.
All the new faces--sprinkled in with the old--are not the only significant change for the Scouts in 2012. For the first time, Lake Forest will be playing a majority of their games on the turf field at the school’s West Campus. This will play into Lake Forest’s strengths--speed and stick handling.
“Us being able to be out on the turf is a huge benefit for us. It speeds the game up so much and showcases our speed and athleticism,” Walsh said. “It showcases teams with good stick skills and exposes those who don’t. The ball moves faster and you have to react.”
Most Games Will Be on Turf
While the switch to the turf is a popular one among players and coaches, it doesn’t come without some mixed emotions.
“I’m a traditionalist. That front lawn is our home. It's where we belong so it's going to be really different for us out here,” Walsh said. “But we love being in the stadium setting, having their names announced on the PA (public address system) was so fun for them. It’s really exciting to be in this showcase arena. We’ll have night time games and practices, but to be on this surface and play out here is worth any sacrifice we make for time.”
Lake Forest’s success in field hockey is judged on state championships. For three years in a row, the Scouts have lost to New Trier in the Illinois High School Field Hockey Association championship game.
The rest of the field is getting stronger, with newbie Glenbard West building momentum along with Lake Forest Academy and Oak Park-River Forest, Lake Forest’s final four opponent in 2011.
But for the Scouts, this season is all about New Trier and finally beating them. To help accomplish this goal, Walsh has adopted a culture grounded in teamwork, summed up by Greek scholar Aristotle, who once said “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.”
No captains have been names, no starters announced. It’s all about the team.
“It's been three years in a row we’ve gotten second place. It’s a great accomplishment but it still stings. It's hard to end your season with a loss,” Walsh said. “These girls are ready to work really hard. We are doing everything in our power to prepare these kids for everything they are going to see.”