Verona High School’s new JV field hockey team opened its inaugural season in Millburn against the Millers on Thursday. While the Hillbillies lost their first game 0-3, Head Coach Kristin Cassano was proud of the team’s performance and said, “the girls kept pushing and working hard against acompetitive team.”
The offensive line–led by seniors Clara Frizzi and Belinda Pecci and sophomore Marykate Dougherty–gained possession and went on the attack several times, but just couldn’t get off a shot on goal. Midfielders Alexa Friedman (senior) and Ella Mathewson (sophomore) showed great movement on and off the ball, winning several 1v1 challenges and successfully passing the ball to the offensive line and defended when necessary. Olivia Egan (freshman), along with her defensive teammates, showed patience and finesse as they cut off several Millburn attacks. Freshman Ava Perry was solid in goal and made more than 10 saves.
A majority of the Verona team is new to the sport, with two-thirds of the girls having picked up a stick for the very first time in July. The coaches are optimistic that as the girls continue to improve their stick skills and gain confidence, they will see improved results with each game. As one senior player said, “We are all different ages and personalities, but on the field–and off–we need to increase our communication for success.”
VHS’s JV roster is already 29 strong, which is quite remarkable considering that the Verona field hockey program was just reinstated this fall after a nearly 40-year hiatus. And this newly formed team is a fairly young team, with just 10 upperclassmen. The Verona rec youth program is also quickly growing, with about 100 athletes in grades 3 to 8, which bodes well for a high school program looking to compete at the varsity level by Fall 2021–if not sooner.
The revival of field hockey at VHS is the result of a grassroots effort by a group of Verona recreation coaches and former field hockey players, who worked diligently with the school board and school officials to bring field hockey back. This inaugural season will be operated and managed by the school district in the same manner as other interscholastic sports, but the program will be fully funded by the Verona Field Hockey Parents Association (VFHPA) and families of participating athletes on a “pay-to-play” basis. The VFHPA has conducted several fundraising events, solicited donations from local organizations and establishments, and collected dues from participating athletes to fund the costs for the coach stipend, transportation, equipment, and uniforms.
In New Jersey, there are more than 200 high schools that offer a field hockey program. Within a 15-mile radius of Verona, there are more than 15 schools that offer field hockey at varying levels (freshman, JV and varsity), so there will be no shortage of competition for Verona’s new field hockey team.
You can cheer on the team at their first home game on Tuesday, September 10 at 4 p.m. at Centennial field, and follow the latest schedule here. You can learn more about the
Verona Field Hockey Parents Association on its Facebook page.