Susquehannock’s heartbreaking postseason loss is motivation for the next class of Warriors

Susquehannock field hockey had a season that was anything but predictable.

After the 2021 season where the Warriors topped YAIAA Division II, placed seventh in the District 3 2A tournament, and appeared in the opening round of the PIAA tournament, their hopes for the 2022 season were high.

The Warriors “went undefeated and won counties, both for the first time in our school history,” senior captain Maggie Grim said of the 2022 season.

Susquehannock was consistently ranked No. 2 in Class 2A this year in-between two District 3 Mid-Penn Conference teams – No. 1 Palmyra and No. 3 Hershey.

But Susky’s hopes were quickly dashed when their undefeated season ended earlier than they had anticipated.

The Warriors entered the District 3 2A tournament as the No. 3 seed, bumped down beneath Hershey just before entering district playoffs. As the higher seed, they were set to host No. 14 New Oxford, a fellow YAIAA team, in the opening round.

However, the Colonials pulled off a huge upset, beating Susquehannock by a slim score of 1-0.

“It definitely was upsetting because we thought we were going to win,” senior captain Natalie Badour said. “Not in, like, a cocky way, but we were not expecting that ending.”

Looking back at the season, Badour said she is nothing but proud of her team and their accomplishments.

“I am so excited to be a part of a team that made history for our school,” she said.

Their season ending was “a little heartbreaking,” especially for the tight-knit group of six seniors, Grim said. Susky’s road to an historic season began with the previous coach, Tracey Kerr, who stepped down after five seasons.

Kerr coached the Warriors from 2016-2021. The Warriors didn’t have a head coach installed at the start of 2022, which compelled longtime Susky coach Sharon McLaughlin to step back into her old position.

McLaughlin coached Susquehannock’s junior high for nine years before coaching varsity. She was the head varsity coach for 11 years.

After leaving the program, she took a break for 10 years, and even then, McLaughlin was still coaching.

“We did Polestar, which was a little club team that was predominately made up of the (2022) senior class with some of the juniors,” McLaughlin said. “And last year’s senior class was part of it too, so I coached them during those 10 years.”

McLaughlin started coaching again on July 1. That’s when the Susky players turned to training for the upcoming season.

“Typically, team trains as soon as they get out of school,” McLaughlin said. “At least when I coached before, that’s what we did. The week after school let out, we started with a regimen of running distances and sprints and exercises so by the time we got to July, they were ready to play.”

Due to not having a coach to start summer training, the Susquehannock team “didn’t start training until much later than most teams did,” she said.

The players were “in-shape and fit,” McLaughlin said. She speculated that “they could’ve gone with another month of training” to have been “more fit for the end of the season.”

But what could have been handled differently during preseason couldn’t possibly erase the legacy of the 2022 Susquehannock team. The Warriors scored 107 goals and 12 players scored them. By comparison, only 16 goals were allowed against them.

“That was the fun part about the season…was that they learned to play as a team, and it served them well,” McLaughlin said. “Every one of our forwards scored a good bit, and some of our midfield.”

Susquehannock had a powerful scoring machine on its roster: Lilly Wojcik. The junior forward scored a total of 49 goals that led not only her team, but also the entire YAIAA conference in individual scoring.

Next in line was Grim with 17. Seniors Lola Sroka and Elena Pasko had 14 and 12, respectively. Badour had three goals along with sophomores Madeleine Gilbert and Bella Kachik. Junior Rachel Stiffler had two, while sophomores Lucy Horvath, Josey Raleigh, Rowan Stoka and freshman Cara Zapach all added one.

“I can’t say enough for the two freshman we had come up because they just fit right in,” McLaughlin said. “It was nice to have a good mix of classes. Give them a little something to start the next year with. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do.”

Grim has confidence in the rising 2023-24 Susky team.

“I cannot wait to see them excel in years coming up, and I’m hoping that they keep breaking more records,” she said.

Grim also reflected on the lessons she and Badour had to learn as captains.

“(We’d) bring them up during games and practices when we were just frustrated in our heads,” Grim said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and how much field hockey has impacted not just me, but other girls on our team.”

On the other end, Badour normally isn’t “very vocal.” She had to step out of her comfort zone.

“Being the captain, I had to be able to speak up and ask refs certain things and ask our coach certain things,” Badour said. “I’ve learned how to just work hard and not let the little things get to me.”

Badour said she learned to grind, which is something younger players should adopt as soon as possible.

“Keep working,” she said. “It will be difficult sometimes but keep working and improve your individual skills.”

Grim encourages players to “get involved” if they aren’t already.

“It is an extremely fun sport, and it is a great outlet for any stressors in life,” she said. “I’ve met my best friends through field hockey. And if you’re playing, enjoy every moment you have and know that the time flies by.”

McLaughlin’s advice is to “practice a lot.”

“They can’t expect to be good without putting in the work,” McLaughlin said. “The teams that you’re seeing that are in playoff contention, they’ve worked. They’ve worked much harder than most of the kids that I know. They worked for it, and they deserve it. That’s what the lesson is. If you want something, work for it.”

And while the players’ high school careers may be over, it’s time for the seniors to look at their next steps.

Grim, a public relations major, decided not to commit to play hockey in college. She wants to put her energy into her major.

“I was planning on committing, and I almost did, but I decided,” she said. “But I do plan on playing club in college.”

Badour’s plans are to attend Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and play field hockey at the Division III program.

McLaughlin’s future plans include training up the next head coach for Susquehannock field hockey.

“I’m going to work through the winter with some of the coaches that may be taking over next year, so that they know how to teach skills and the little nuances about making them successful with their skills,” McLaughlin said. “Give them my drills and kinda help them learn how to put a team together. Things like that.”

There are some current prospects in the running to take over as head coach.

“I do know a couple people who haven’t decided if they’re applying yet,” she said. “They have children that are coming up, like they’re in the elementary program now, so they will be playing a part in the future, I’m sure.”

Finishing her coaching career didn’t go down the way she expected, but it also ended in an excellent way for her players.

“I think they’ll have many memories to look back on, and that’s the goal,” McLaughlin said.

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