Haddonfield field hockey maintaining focus entering title defense season

After winning the program’s first state championship in 25 years last season, Haddonfield has turned the page to focus on having another successful season in 2017.

Last November, Haddonfield Memorial High School field hockey won its first state championship since 1991.

However, the team’s 2016 success took a back seat once practice opened on Aug. 14.

The first day of practice, head coach Lindsay Kocher told her team it was time to focus on the new season and work toward more success in 2017.

“It’s a new season,” Kocher said. “It’s a new team. Yes, we have some returners from last year, which is always nice so they have that feeling of winning a state championship, but that was last year.”

The good news for Haddonfield is a number of key players from last year’s championship team are back to lead the Bulldawgs in 2017. Seniors such as Jaimie McCormick and Sophie Popp are expected to play big roles as Haddonfield tries to defend its title.

“They know all the hard work that gets to that place,” Kocher said of the returning players. “We had a lot of ups and downs (last season), but we figured out a way to battle through it.”

McCormick recognizes she will have to play a bigger role during her senior season. After scoring 10 goals and tallying five assists in 2016, McCormick knows she’ll be relied on for more than just what shows up on the scoresheet this season.

“We need really strong leadership this year,” McCormick said. “Last year, there were times where we did fall apart a little bit, and I think (Kocher) is looking for a strong leader who will keep things under control when things aren’t going our way.”

“I gained a lot of confidence over the years,” McCormick added. “That confidence has helped me become more of a leader on the field.”

Popp is also a strong offensive player who will be looked at to play a big role in 2017. Popp, who scored a hat trick in Haddonfield’s win in the state semifinals last year, believes this year’s team is strong on both sides of the ball

“I think we’re strong all around the field. We lost a few seniors last year but that doesn’t have a big effect on us. There’s really no weak spot in our lineup.”

Kocher believes the team will also get some contributions from a few new players this year. A few freshmen caught her eye in the early days on the preseason, and Kocher believes Haddonfield’s feeder program has played a big role in developing young talent in recent years.

“They saw what the program was about and were eager to come in and make a presence themselves,” Kocher said.

While the Bulldawgs have turned the page on last year’s championship season, the team recognizes it will need to be ready to play hard in each game. McCormick and Popp said the team realizes it has a huge target on its back as a defending state champion.

“We know we have our usual rivals, the few teams we just want to beat,” McCormick said. “But we may have those other teams we don’t expect that will come in and try just as hard to beat us.”

“I think we always have a target on our back,” Popp added. “But since we won states last year, I think every team in the group is going to be gunning for us.”

Kocher’s focus early in the season isn’t on postseason success or even the Bulldawgs’ regular season games later in the season. Her focus is making sure her team improves on a daily basis so the Bulldawgs are playing their best late in the season.

“This year, there’s a bigger target,” Kocher said. “But we can’t focus in on that. We need to focus on ourselves and getting better each day.”