Pope John's field hockey: Year in review

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  • Pope John's Adriana Purcell in action

  • Pope John's goalie Ciera Smith with remarkable save versus Vernon, Oct. 2

  • Pope John's 2017 Field Hockey Team

By Josh Lashley

— There are so many great lessons that a student-athlete can obtain from competing in sports at the high school level, and that most likely includes the ability to rebound from a setback and turn it into a positive situation.

Win, lose or draw, the 2017 Pope John High School field hockey program presented themselves in a respectful manner and was constantly trying to find ways to compete at a higher level at every given opportunity.

“I could see we had improved from last season very early on this season,’’ Pope John head coach Erin Ashton said. “The Vernon game was by far one of our greatest games of the season and it was our Senior Night (on October 2).

“Overall, we have progressed as a team on and off the field. We are better at grasping the concepts and strategies of field hockey and also working together to get the job done. The great part is that although we are losing seven seniors, we are a young team with depth and talent. We can only keep building on what we have started in the past two seasons. We have more wins and less losses this season so that is progress.’’

Coach Ashton won’t soon forget the leadership that was shown by veteran student-athletes on the Lions’ squad this fall.

“Katie Yarussi is a junior forward that ultimately leads our team in every way,’’ Ashton said. “She is our leading scorer and was the leading scorer in the American Division and ranks third in Sussex County this season. She lives and breathes field hockey. Her 11 goals and 6 assists were more goals than we had as a team combined last season. Adriana Purcell is a senior defender who is the backbone of our defense. She plays hard each game and exploits the weaknesses of other teams. She makes adjustments at half-time and also leads by example on and off the field.

“Danielle Reilly is also a senior defender that we will miss tremendously. She is the glue to our entire team. She plays hard and never gives up, but more importantly she is a leader, a role model and a positive influence on and off the field. Ciera Smith is our sophomore goalie. She fights on the ground and never gives up.

In fact, quite a few players impressed coach Ashton and will certainly help toward the future.

“Ciera Smith in goal is our Most Improved Player this year,’’ Ashton said. “She went from never having played field hockey until last year to being someone who won a starting position in the cage. “Sierra Benson is a sophomore transfer from Vernon that is an all-around athlete. She's fast, she's fit and she's tenacious. Catie Lovett is a freshman that no doubt will be a leading scorer in a short period of time. She is fast as lightning and works so hard in games and practices.’’

“Kristen Smith is a junior who moved up from JV this season and won a starting spot. She is a text book player and shows that executing the basics soundly actually works. She is someone I don't want off the field and who I can rely on as a flyer on defensive corners.’

The Lions are very much looking forward to the 2018 season.

“I'm optimistic about how we ended our season with wins and ties,’’ Ashton said. “We turned the corner and will hopefully keep going. I'm the third coach in four seasons for this team, so I'm hoping that some consistency and known expectations will help guide us forward.’’

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