When a program has won 11 state titles, including five in a row at one point, people tend to look for that program to win at the highest level and nothing else. Shawnee High School field hockey agrees with that mindset.
“No one has higher expectations for us than ourselves. That’s how we enter every season. Every year our goal is to compete for a group title, sectional title and ultimately a state championship,” head field hockey coach Renee Phelps said.
The Lady Renegades are in the midst of a youth movement, as this year’s team will only return three seniors. Phelps said that even though this is a young team, she doesn’t worry if the experience level is there.
“This is an experienced squad made up of girls from all classes. The experience they’ve gotten last season and the year before will definitely help them prepare for this upcoming season,” Phelps said. “There are a lot of underclassmen on this team, but they’ve played in big games and competed in big spots.”
Shawnee finished last season with a record of 14–6, ultimately losing to undefeated Eastern in the South Jersey Group IV Championship. That loss was still fresh in both Phelps’ and her team’s mind as they started camp on Aug. 16.
“You want to be able to find success in last season even though we didn’t go as far as we would have liked, but this team does have higher aspirations than just playing in the championship,” Phelps said.
Though there are only three, Phelps spoke to leaning on her seniors for leading the young Lady Renegades.
“Corrine Caliga, Casey Eck and Sophia Miller are our team captains and there was never any doubt. They have the full support of everyone on the team and really that is because they have made team bonding a priority,” Phelps said.
“All three are great girls and role models both on and off the field.”
According to Phelps, big expectations and having the opportunity to play in big games is part of what makes playing for Shawnee unique and can help these girls in the future whether on the field or in life.
“We do have fun, and I know that these girls learn lessons here that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. But at the same point, I do think it’s important to want to win, to want to compete for championship. I think that drive is really great for these girls, the team and the school,” Phelps said.
For the Lady Renegades, the competition starts right in their own division. In 2012, seven of the 10 teams finished five games over .500 or better, including an Eastern powerhouse that went 26–0. Phelps sees that as both a blessing and a curse.
“We have a challenging conference, there is no doubt, probably one of the best in the state. But playing these teams each week forces our team to improve, to not take games off.
“It ensures we are giving our best effort every time we take the field,” Phelps said.