2016 champions: Williamsville North (Class A), Iroquois (Class B), Barker (Class C).
2016 All-WNY first-team underclassmen: Abigail Stone-11 (Akron), Holly Stiller-11 (Iroquois), Kayla Blas-11 (Sacred Heart).
Williamsville North goes for three-peat: Behind freshman Emma Roland, the Spartans made a deep run into the 2016 postseason before losing to Baldwinsville in the Class A Super Regional. North beat Orchard Park, 3-1, to take its second consecutive Section VI Class A title and then topped Fairport, 1-0, in the Far West Regionals.
All four goals in both of those wins were scored by Roland, who returns to anchor head coach Andrea Maslowski’s attack.
“She is always creating options, not afraid to make a quick pass to set up another player for a shot,” Maslowski said in an email. “Emma is able to read a play.
“Emma has high expectations for not only herself but the team. Scoring at least two goals per game, and hope to gain two or more assists. I look forward to what is to come.”
North’s net will be occupied by either Sam Mallare or Sarah Quinlan. Maslowski said her defenders look “fantastic,” and expects goals to come from Roland, Danielle Batz, Erin Roland, Lauren Robinawitz, Breanna Shannon and others.
“Of course it's a goal to go all the way, but I would like to start with being section champs for three years in a row,” Maslowski said. "I am extremely optimistic with the team we have this year.”
Iroquois reloads on defense for another run: Pete Tonsoline’s crew won its first 21 games of last season, the 19th of which gave Iroquois a Section VI crown after losing in the final three straight seasons. Their season eventually ended at the hands of now eight-time defending Class B state champs Lakeland, 1-0.
“I’m fortunate to have been on that roller-coaster ride,” Tonsoline said. “It’s better than the Superman ride at Darien.”
Iroquois’ best player, Holly Stiller, returns for one final season after being named first-team All-WNY the last two. Under her direction, Iroquois allowed only nine goals last year. She’s started every game in her high school career.
“Remarkable,” Tonsoline said of Stiller’s potential. “She’s become even that much better … She’s next to impossible to get by. Defensively, she’s one of the best that I’ve ever had. I just told my girls this morning, ‘Look it. Here comes Stiller. If you can get by Stiller, you can get by anybody.’
“There is nobody around that can match Stiller up. It was like bringing a pro player out here and trying to beat the pro player.”
Tonsoline, who enters his 25th season with the varsity team, returns two other defensive veterans, Taylor Quinn and Lydia Aroune. All three, Stiller included, are three-year starters. Goalie Abby Grier also returns.
“In field hockey it’s hard to score,” Tonsoline said. “But against us it’s even more difficult.”
Barker returns plenty of experience: Head coach Jeff Costello brought his team to the Far West Regionals last season after shutting out Akron in the sectional championship, and his roster returns significant minutes from that run.
It begins up top with forward Natalie Menz, who Costello noted will provide possession and plenty of playmaking ability. She’ll also factor heavily into Barker’s specialty situations on penalty corners. In the midfield, Jill Moeller and Sarah Mason will lead the group, along with defensive midfielder Casey A’Hearn - all three of whom are returning starters.
“The fact that we have so many key players coming back to our midfield is huge for us,” Costello said.
Barker also returns Cara Fox in goal for only her second year on varsity. Aiding Menz on offense will be Katrina Clare, Lena Fazzolari and Ciara Gregoire, each of whom provided scoring a year ago.
“We’re not losing a lot of scoring,” Costello said. “We’re losing some leadership, but I think we’ve got a lot of experience coming back so that’s a real plus for us.”
Watch out for Blas: Her team may not get as much recognition, but Sacred Heart’s Blas is one of three returning first-team All-WNYers. Last season she scored 12 goals and assisted on 45. Blas is verbally committed to Northwestern.
Stone cold: Abigail Stone is another one to watch for, as the three-time All-WNY selection will enter her fifth year starting for Akron. She scored 13 goals last season for the Niagara-Orleans League champions. She was also an All-WNY first-teamer in softball last year.
Championship time: Sectionals begin Oct. 20 and continue to Nov. 1. Far West Regionals are Nov. 4 at Williamsville North and the state championship final four is Nov. 11-12, with the final at Maine-Endwell High School near Binghamton.