Submitted by Brian Lynner
The Stow-Munroe Falls field hockey team is focused upon building on the success of last season while replacing the core of its team due to the graduation of nine seniors.
While this may appear as a daunting task, second-year head coach Virginia Wohlabaugh, who guided the team to a 6-5-2 record last fall, and the Lady Bulldogs are up to the challenge.
A strong core of talent steps forward, led by seven incoming seniors and a bevy of skilled players up and down the roster.
This year's team will feature eight new starters, but the cupboard is nowhere near bare as Wohlabaugh welcomes back last year's leading scorer, senior Sam Houk, a skilled attack player who always applies pressure to the opposing team's defense.
Houk will be joined by returning senior starters Jessica Lloyd and team captain Gabriella Kingston.
Lloyd is a stellar midfielder who is a key player on defensive corners.
Kingston will help anchor the defense and serve as a critical midfielder for Stow.
Wohlabaugh believes "the new starters and role players will bring energy and excitement to the team and have already demonstrated cohesion" as they prepare for the season.
Senior team captain Maddie Fink, a defender, along with seniors forward Leanne Bunnell and defenders Audra Harris (defender) and Kimberly Schirra (defender) will be major contributors to the team this year.
Adding punch to the offense will be sophomores Katie Goodenow and Kia Tubergen.
Wohlabaugh noted that Goodenow "has worked hard during the offseason and will once again be counted on to contribute to the varsity team."
The defense will be anchored by sophomore goalkeeper Emma Hurguy, who steps up from junior varsity to replace all-conference goalie Kayla Cartwright.
Hurguy saw spot duty with the varsity team and according to Wohlabaugh, "had an excellent offseason approach and is ready to step in" at the net.
Hurguy will be joined on defense by two juniors who are being counted on to contribute to the team in Jenna Lynner and sweeper Kerri Lockard.
While the Lady Bulldogs will find it challenging to replace departing senior Haley Ballard, a seasoned defender now playing for Long Island University Brooklyn, Wohlabaugh "likes her new group of defenders and midfielders."
Another key player is junior Audrey Grone, played for the junior varsity squad last year and will be another important contributor as a midfielder.
Junior midfielder Jenna Deverall also is making the transition from JV and will be counted on to help the team this season.
Wohlabaugh wants her team to "understand the value of hard work and to continue to develop both on and off the field" while "representing Stow in a positive way through sportsmanship and a strong work ethic."
Wohlabaugh, who played at Syracuse University (N.Y.) is assisted by Brooke Kemp and former Stow standout Steph Schafer, who will lead the JV team.
The Lady Bulldogs are scheduled to make their 2016 debut with a home date against Walsh Jesuit Aug. 23.
Varsity start time is set for 4:30 p.m.
The schedule also features state runner-up Hudson and consistently strong squads in Shaker Heights, Hathaway Brown and Western Reserve Academy.
Stow also is scheduled to make a trip to Pennsylvania to play Pine Richland and Upper St. Clair later in the season.