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#PrepTalkPreview: Field hockey -- Williamsville schools remain strong, will Barker bounce back?

2015 champions: Williamsville North (Class A), Amherst (Class B), Akron (Class C). Akron defeated Barker to end the Raiders’ seven-year run in Class C.

2015 All-WNY first team underclassmen: Kelsey Chai-11 (Pioneer), Abby Ferenczy-11 (Wiliamsville South), Shannon Quinlan-11 (Williamsville North), Marnie Reidell-10 (Williamsville South), Leah Rogers-11 (Williamsville East), Jenna Sobol-11 (Amherst), Holly Stiller-10 (Iroquois), Abigail Stone-10 (Akron)

Spartan Pride: Williamsville North's heroic march to a state title came just short in 2015, as the Spartans fell to the eventual champions, Mamaroneck, 6-0 in the state semifinals. Williamsville North is losing some key cogs from that team, including a pair of All-Western New York team members, midfielder Clare Ahern and goalie Mary Crumlish. The team's only returning member of the All-WNY team, Shannon Quinlan, was named the team's offensive MVP for notching 10 goals and 11 assists in her junior season.

School rivals: There's plenty of talent in the Williamsville school district, as half the returning All-WNY picks are from either North, South or East. The schools also have two returning seniors from the second team, Williamsville North defender Kaitlyn Battaglia and Williamsville East attacker Hayley Skidmore, and three players on the honorable mention list.

Amherst: The Tigers are aiming for a third straight Class B title, but they’ll have to it without two-time Prep Talk Player of the Year McKenna Rushford. The star of Western New York field hockey the last two seasons is now playing collegiate lacrosse at Cincinnati. Amherst will have to rely more heavily on All-WNY selection Jenna Sobol, who is playing her fifth year on Amherst's varsity team. She's experienced plenty of success in that span, including two undefeated seasons and three Section VI Class B titles. She scored six goals and 20 assists last season.

Erin Roland, left, is back for Williamsville North while Jenna Sobol returns to lead Amherst. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

Erin Roland, left, is back for Williamsville North while Jenna Sobol returns to lead Amherst. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

Streak breaker: When Akron took down rival Barker 3-1 in the Class C final, Akron's Lily Berghorn said it probably felt better than winning a state title. The victory ending Barker's seven-year reign atop the division. It was also the Tigers' first field hockey title. The Tigers return junior center defender Abby Stone, one of three sophomores on last year's All-WNY team and a three-time all-league selection. Also returning on defense is Cierra Janis, a Niagara-Orleans first team member and All-WNY honorable mention. She's one of 11 returning seniors on coach Mary Borden's squad.

Starting over: On the other side of the coin is Barker, who is losing their two Niagara-Orleans first team members, goalie Caitlyn Mason and defender/midfielder Erika Moeller. But as Barker coach Jeff Costello said, the team never rebuilds, they just retool. The Raiders return one N-O second team member, Heather Cummings, and five honorable mentions. That group aims to start a new championship streak.

Nichols: The Vikings return seven seniors and three sophomore starters from last year's squad that fell in the semifinals in the New York Association of Independent Schools tournament. The team's captains, Kayla Parentice and Susan Kowalski, lead a group that coach Beth Stone described as lacking stars, but solid all around. Nichols opens the season Sept. 6 against Akron, the second season in a row they've kicked things off with the Class C champion. They'll play in the Canadian-based Conference of Independent Schools Association playoffs starting Oct. 6 and the New York State Association of Independent Schools tournament on Nov. 2.

Championship time: The Section VI championships are Oct. 29 at Orchard Park (B 11 a.m., C 1 p.m., A 3 p.m.); Far West Regionals, Nov. 2 at Section V site TBD; NYSPHSAA final four, Nov. 12-13 at IV-Maine-Endwell.

Who’s going to be Prep Talk Player of the Year? Rushford has one the award the last two years, so there's a wide-open race due to her graduation.

Prep Talk Player of the Year for field hockey: McKenna Rushford, Amherst

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