In victory or defeat, something that was a constant for the High Point High School field hockey program was an enjoyment and the willingness to improve in the sport.
The Wildcats tallied six wins this past season and they advanced to the NJSIAA North 1 Group 2 Sectional Tournament as the No. 10 seed and defeated seventh seeded Jefferson, 2-1, in the opening round. In the quarterfinals they lost to second seeded Vernon.
“The games that stand out the most in my mind are three out of the four that we played against Vernon,’’ High Point head coach Kelly Reynolds said. “In the first two games we were right there with them throughout the entire game, but we lost to them by one goal each time. Even though they were losses, I was proud of our team because they were able to play right with one of the strongest teams in our league. Our last game against Vernon I think was by far the best game that our team played all season long. We went into the game having lost to Vernon three times already, so morale could have been very low. But our girls really came out swinging and they played with heart, intensity, and desire during the entire game.
“The first half was much stronger offensively for us scoring the first goal of the game, but we broke down a bit in the second half. Our defense was amazing. It was difficult to end our season with a 4-1 loss, but the way that the girls played made me very proud as a coach. Vernon came through and they were the stronger team offensively, but I feel like we made them earn that win.’’
Among the leaders for the Wildcats this year was senior captain Alexis Lake.
“Alexis was one of our returning varsity players and she helped to plan and lead our captain's practices over the summer along with some of our other seniors,’’ Reynolds said. “She came into preseason building positive relationships with all of the girls in our program. She led by example always helping with equipment, running more than needed to keep some of our slower pace runners company as they finished conditioning. If a girl was struggling with the run, Alexis was always to first to go out and finish it with her so she wouldn't have to do it alone.
Coach Reynolds noted Cassandra Conklin and Rachel King as being among the most improved student athletes on the roster this fall.
“Cassandra came into this season as the starting varsity goalie having no prior varsity experience,’’ Reynolds said. “She was basically thrown to the wolves having to defend the goals against Vernon, Hackettstown and Newton within the first full week of the season. She has worked hard all season long, she has been attending clinics to improve her skills on the weekends and it has shown. She is constantly looking to improve her skills and I am confident that she will continue to grow in this position over the next few years.
“Rachel showed a lot of improvement this season as well. Rachel, having midfielder and defensive back experience, was thrown into our sweeper position this season when our senior starter was sick for a few weeks. She had to take on this position right before our game against Newton, the league champions. Rachel was quick to learn the position and over the following weeks really began to shine.’’
Improvements were made by players throughout the lineup for High Point.
“Another player who has improved a lot is junior mid-fielder Mia Librizzi,’’ Reynolds said. “I put Mia in between two of my strongest players in the mid-field, seniors Jackie Melone and Grace Musilli, so that they could work with her and help to develop her skills. I wanted to find someone who could be able to step into Grace and Jackie's shoes when they are no longer with us."
There is plenty of excitement surrounding the Wildcat program for the future.
“I am very optimistic for next season,’’ Reynolds said. “Although we are losing some key players in Jackie Melone, Taylor Berry, Abbey Lazier, Molly VanStone, Alexis Lake, and Grace Musilli; we have some girls who have been gaining varsity experience in their positions over the course of the season and I am hopeful that next year, they will make those positions their own. We also have several sophomores and a few juniors and some freshmen returning next year and I feel that we have some strong up and comers who will be ready to fill in their shoes
“As a coach I just want to say how proud I am of this team. As I stated earlier, this was a rough season. Many teams would have crumbled under the pressure and disappointment of coming so close to winning only to come up one goal short. Many teams would have begun to turn on each other and many teams would have fallen apart by mid-season. These girls never gave up on their team and the season.’’