By Mark Zimmaro (Photos and videos by Mark Zimmaro)
Another fantastic Philadelphia Catholic League field hockey season is in the books so we’ll give some final thoughts on the 2023 campaign, which saw a deja vu of sorts in the finale.
There’s a little bit for every team in the PCL this week as we dish out some random thoughts on all nine PCL teams and give props to the 28 players who were selected for All-Catholic honors, as selected by the coaches in the PCL. We’ll sprinkle in their photos as we move around the league.
Away we go…
Sienna Golden, Archbishop Carroll, First Team All-Catholic and League MVP.
We begin with Archbishop Carroll, which celebrated its third straight PCL championship by defeating rival Cardinal O’Hara for the third straight year in the championship game. It was twice in a row that the Lions took the regular season meeting before the Patriots got their revenge at Neumann University.
Do the Pats have enough to make it four next year? Well, they’ll be missing Ohio State commit Sienna Golden who broke the school’s all-time scoring record, so there will be big shoes to fill in terms of finishing. However, in big games, Golden would sit back defensively a bit in the midfield and try to spring speedy forwards Lauren Wineburg and Morgan Wood. It worked to perfection in the championship as Wood scored three times with two coming on fast breaks. Golden, the League MVP, gave some advice to Wood the freshman, who will likely terrorize opposing defenses through the 2026 season.
“I’m so proud of her,” Golden said. “I’ve been telling her so much to not get down on herself and she’s just so resilient. She kept pushing. In the beginning, she made a few mistakes, but I told her to keep her head up and keep pushing and they will go in and that’s what eventually happened.”
For Sienna and her mother Deanna Golden, it will be a championship to remember as they won together. Deanna took over the head coaching spot prior to this season and got to witness a special year from her daughter.
“It was very special,” Deanna said. “Last night, (Sienna) was very stressed out. She went to bed early to silence her mind. But this is great. It’s an experience that is bittersweet, but at the same time, I’m so happy for her. She’s an outstanding, amazing player that is brilliant in reading the field and she’s a competitor. Winning is everything to her. Everything.”
In the championship, the Patriots were simply a step quicker, and when O’Hara found open space, the Patriots defense, and notably outside back Emma Grant closed in quickly.
Grant, a Third Team selection, had a fantastic game when the two teams met on Oct. 6 and quietly had another rock-steady performance in the championship as a compliment to First Team All-Catholic selection Beth Wineburg.
Another shining star this season was midfielder Sam Hewitt, who earned a Second Team selection.
Hewitt just seemed to be positioned perfectly and very rarely made a mistake, especially in tight games. Players with high hockey IQ are always in demand.
Finally, let’s give a nod to Carroll goaltender Fiona Conboy, who was visibly upset after the loss to O’Hara despite playing well that day, and returned to her shutdown form in the PCL championship. Conboy stopped everything early as the Lions pressured with three straight corners but came up empty. By the time the powerful Lions finally got one past her, Carroll had built a five goal lead.
Beth Wineburg, Archbishop Carroll, First Team All-Catholic
Sam Hewitt, Archbishop Carroll, Second Team All Catholic
Emma Grant, Archbishop Carroll, Third Team All-Catholic
It was a bit of a frustrating season for Archbishop Ryan, but they are trending in the right direction. The team has recruited players to join the team despite having a significant disadvantage in feeder programs in the Northeast part of the city.
They fall in the same boat with St. Hubert and Little Flower in not having the resources that the suburban teams have, but Ryan is still gettin the job done.
We mentioned earlier this season how Second Team selection Mikayla Steger played a big role in that by using social media to attract new players. The Ragdolls were able to field a JV program for the first time in years and several players look like they could make an impact at the varsity level very soon.
The recurring problem for Ryan is their most experienced players usually end up playing defensive roles like First Teamer Kayla Gray, so it’s a restart each year.
Kayla Gray, Archbishop Ryan, First Team All-Catholic
Add to that, second team All Catholic goaltender Rylee Ferry is also set to graduate. Ferry was fantastic this season despite the lopsided scores. And she was one heck of an interview for our “Ask Me Anything” segment. She’s certainly got a future in front of a camera someday.
Rylee Ferry, Archbishop Ryan, Second Team All-Catholic
Mikayla Steger, Archbishop Ryan, Second Team All-Catholic
Made for TV?
You could say the same about Vikings goalie Laurel Tonkinson who earned a feature story this season for her work at school, creating a sign language club as well as being a model student.
Her answers in the video segments were also insightful. What is it with the goalies giving such great interviews?
For her play on the field, Tonkinson ended up earning the First Team All-Catholic goalie selection, which was spot on. And more impressively, Tonkinson only recently became a goalie so her learning curve was off the charts.
For the second straight season, the Vikings received home field advantage for the payoffs after a great regular season.
It was easy to see Wood’s strength this year was goaltending and defense, led by senior and First Team All-Catholic selection Bella Szwak.
The Vikings fell a little short as they just couldn’t find enough scoring despite having Second Team All-Catholic forward Kiara Espejel.
Wood scored just 15 goals in nine PCL games and never topped more than four goals in a game during that schedule.
Earlier this season, Vikings coach Jennifer Konow hinted that some scoring talent appears to be on its way next year in the form of a strong incoming freshman class.
It could be the difference in the Vikings getting over the hump and joining the top teams in the division. One of these years, it's going to be more than a two horse race, and Wood might just be the team to break into the conversation. Stay tuned.
Laurel Tonkinson, Archbishop Wood, First Team All-Catholic
Bella Szwak, Archbishop Wood, First Team All-Catholic
Kiara Espejel, Archbishop Wood, Second Team All-Catholic
Was there a more fun team to watch in the PCL this year?
The Pandas were a lively bunch and were one of the more unpredictable teams in the division this year. There was an average of 5.7 goals scored in each Bonner & Prendie PCL game this year including their two PCL playoff games.
Towering Taylor Eagan had a fantastic season and had a statement game in the Pandas’ first round road victory at Archbishop Wood.
It was a long day as the Pandas had a long ride to Warminster but didn't seem too rusty once they got off the bus.
They got the job done and the whole team was in the mood to celebrate after a long ride home. Well, almost everyone.
Taylor Eagan, Bonner & Prendie, First Team All-Catholic
Eagan, who is an honors student and a First Team All-Catholic selection, said something along the lines of wanting to go home and study.
Gotta love her commitment both on and off the field.
The Pandas received similar commitment from Third Team All-Catholic selections Mel Standen and Leah Walker who helped steady the ship after the Pandas started the season 0-2 in the PCL.
It's never easy to open the season with O'Hara and Carroll, but the the Pandas went 4-2 down the stretch with tight losses to Wood and Lansdale Catholic.
Somewhere, the Pandas found their confidence and seemed to send waves of offense at the opposing team's cage. The girls know the history as it wasn't all that long ago that Bonner & Prendie was the top team in the PCL. They believe they can get back there.
Although Bonner & Prendie lost in the PCL semifinals to O’Hara, they rebounded with a 5-0 win over Franklin Towne Charter on Halloween to reach the District XII 2A final, where they lost 5-0 to Carroll.
Mel Standen, Bonner & Prendie, Third Team All-Catholic
Leah Walker, Bonner & Prendie, Third Team All-Catholic
You have to feel for the Lions, who have gotten so close the last three years. New coach Hailie Fosbenner challenged her squad this year by stacking the non-league schedule early and O’Hara was on a roll as it steamrolled through the PCL schedule, taking out eventual champ Archbishop Carroll on the way.
Samantha Connolly, Cardinal O'Hara, First Team All-Catholic
Honor Breen, Cardinal O'Hara, First Team All-County
You could argue that O’Hara were the underdogs at the start of the season after losing three First Team All-Catholic players (Maeve Boston, Sofia Brown and Rachel Fosbenner) from its 2022 roster, but the Lions had stolen the spotlight on Oct. 6 after the 3-2 victory over Carroll and the Lions finished the regular season 8-0.
It was fun seeing the worker bees like Samantha Connolly, Honor Breen and Caroline McManus step into leadership roles as captains.
Connolly and Breen both received First Team All-County recognition, while Maddie Fagioli and Mia Travia got Second Team nods. Sophomore Megan Rullo was added as a Third Team selection for the second straight year.
The next challenge will be seeing the new crop of worker bees getting bigger roles next year. Fagioli and Rullo are just sophomores but will certainly see increased roles next fall.
The Lions shrugged off the PCL loss and defeated Northeast High School, 8-0, to win the District XII 3A title on Thursday as Rullo clobbered the Vikings with five goals. The Lions will begin a state title pursuit Nov. 7.
Mia Travia, Cardinal O'Hara, Second Team All-Catholic
Maddie Fagioli, Cardinal O'Hara Second Team All-Catholic
Megan Rullo, Cardinal O'Hara, Third Team All-Catholic
The way to the top is never a straight line.
Last year Conwell-Egan had a banner season and made it to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. This year seemed like a rockier path, but that’s only because the expectations got that much higher.
The Eagles still made the playoffs and even led Lansdale Catholic in their quarterfinal playoff game. The trick next season will be finding someone who can score in bunches. Conwell-Egan was spoiled last season as Bailey McCormick and Dakota Poland formed one of the better one-two punches in the league. This season, Poland, a First Team All-Catholic selection, was still excellent and even found another gear while teaming up with Lauren Headley. Poland scored both goals in the quarterfinal, just willing the ball into the net on a couple rushes.
Next year could be a challenge. Headley can flat out fly and will likely be the Eagles’ main threat but the Eagles are going to need to find a few finishers to help her out. It’s another team that had a good crop of underclassmen so the battles to be in those scoring positions will start in the preseason. Or maybe even earlier.
They’ll also need to find a replacement for swift and steady defender Keira Delfin (Second Team All-Catholic) who takes all the drives for the Eagles out of the defensive zone. Delfin was one of five senior captains this season and delivered both on and off the field.
When it comes to goaltending, Conwell-Egan is in good hands for the foreseeable future as freshman Kayla Distler (Third Team All-Catholic) put her mark on a variation of the sport that was a little new to her. Distler is an ice hockey goalie and it shows as she showcases her catlike flexibility in front of the Eagles’ cage. She’ll be one to watch.
Another reason for hope is the fact Conwell-Egan has a beautiful turf field that will attract future players. The Eagles invested a lot of money in their sports facility over the past few years and they will start seeing the dividends soon, if they haven’t already. It’s also a great school. (I’m not forced to say that, but my wife is a Conwell-Egan grad, so it doesn’t hurt to put it in print.)
Dakota Poland, Conwell-Egan, First Team All-Catholic
Keira Delfin, Conwell-Egan, Second Team All-Catholic
Kayla Distler, Conwell-Egan, Third Team All-Catholic
Anna Cusumano, Lansdale Catholic, First Team All-Catholic
Kate Fredrickson, Lansdale Catholic, Second Team All-Catholic
Maura Johnson, Lansdale Catholic, Third Team All-Catholic
You couldn’t help but feel happy for Lansdale Catholic coach Karen Dowd, who was pretty emotional after the Crusaders made it to the semifinals.
The program has been on the rise and Lansdale Catholic knew this needed to be a big year as a strong senior class was taking its final bow. The Crusaders played great. They finished third in the standings, only losing to Carroll and O’Hara, and won a first round playoff game.
The Crusaders have a lot to build on but it could be a while before they get another player like Catholic University-bound Anna Cusumano, who was an obvious First Team All-Catholic pick. The stick-handling wizard simply created goals that usually ended up in someone else’s scoring column and that is going to be extremely hard to replace.
What does that mean for next year?
The Crusaders aren’t going to have a Cusumano but they have a lot of players that took positive steps this season and will just have to reinvent the way they do business.
I was a little surprised there wasn’t a little more Lansdale Catholic representation on the All-Catholic team this year. Kate Fredrickson earned Second Team and Maura Johnson got Third Team as the duo helped terrorize the opposition offensively.
But the Crusaders also did a great job on defense this year. Lansdale Catholic went 6-2 this season and really locked it down defensively as the season progressed with a big part of that credit belonging to Colette Kirlin and Sienna Greeley.
We would have loved to have seen a storybook season come to fruition for Little Flower. The Sentinels lost their coach Bill Seifert in the offseason after a brave battle with cancer. His daughter Allyssa Seifert (First Team All-Catholic) did everything in her power to keep the program together by recruiting players after the pandemic caused a pause in their competition and they ended up with a hard-working, likable group that included Second Team selection Katie Navea.
Coach Tim McCartney inherited an eager bunch of players and got them to buy in despite not having much playing experience.
The results weren’t there, and I’m not sure anyone truly expected differently. It’s a testament to how much of a skilled game field hockey is. The Sentinels worked hard but didn’t get rewarded in the standings despite Seifert being an absolute bulldog each time she took the field.
When I spoke to McCartney a few times this season, he said with a straight face that the team “needs a new coach.” He’s only half right. McCartney has come to the aid of the program twice now. He is the school’s athletic director and he helped Bill Seifert as an assistant when it returned from the pandemic. Then, he took over the head coaching duties after Seifert’s passing so the Sentinels could once again field a team.
Is there someone else that knows a little more X’s and O’s in the sport?
Maybe, sure. But you’re probably not going to find another guy who cares as much as McCartney does and brings smiles to the faces of the players who are just playing for the love of the game. That type of value isn't measured in the win column.
Allyssa Seifert, Little Flower, First Team All-Catholic
Katie Navea, Little Flower, Second Team All-Catholic
The Sentinels could definitely use some help on the sidelines in the form of an assistant or two, but that doesn’t mean McCartney should go. Maybe just keep the seat warm for Allyssa once she returns from college?
Another suggestion would be to mix in a few non-league games. The Sentinels weren’t a bad team, but somebody had to finish last in the powerful PCL. A few W’s outside the PCL would certainly boost morale.
Faith Landis, St. Hubert, First Team All-Catholic
Emma Drab, St. Hubert, Second Team All-County
The Bambies were another program that was facing a possible pause as it didn’t have a coach until Madeline Alderfer swept in to save the season. Alderfer hadn’t even heard of St. Hubert but the Methacton High School grad (Eagleville, Pa.) who played at Holy Cross, stepped in and made an immediate impact.
St. Hubert scored victories over Archbishop Ryan and Little Flower this season, breaking a PCL winless streak that dated back to 2019. Alderfer is a good field hockey mind whose Division 1 background is obviously embedded in her teaching styles.
And the Bambies played hard. Maybe no one played harder than defender Faith Landis who was a master at blocking shots and preventing chances by getting low to the ground.
Landis (first team) and Emma Drab (second team) earned All-Catholic honors as St. Hubert climbed back on the map of PCL competition.
A few rainout postponements really prevented me from seeing the Bambies more than once this season so they deserve more credit than what is written here. Excited to see the next step next season.
In our final "Ask Me Anything" video, I asked players what significance their jersey number holds, if any. Once again, we got some great responses as we did all season. I’d just like to thank a great group of players for going along with the silliness of this bit. It was a lot of fun. It’s not easy going on camera and having no idea what question is going to be thrown at you.
As reporters, we take post game interviews for granted, sometimes forgetting that kids get nervous. For players, it can be scary, but these players really showed off their personalities well. I’d also like to thank the great moderators of Philadelphia Sports Digest for giving me the free range to experiment my crazy ideas.
I’m looking forward to making 2024 field hockey coverage at Philadelphia Sports Digest even better. What do you want to see next year? PCL scoring statistics? Other ideas? We can do a lot with the cooperation of our great coaches. I’d also love to tell more great feature stories. There are some amazing student athletes in the PCL and some great untold stories out there. If you know one, please reach out to me at email@example.com. See you next year!