Having a young defense can be a recipe for disaster in high school field hockey. Inexperience can lead to breakdowns, and breakdowns can lead to goals.
Three games in, Archbishop Spalding is having no such problem. With a pair of freshmen starting on defense, the host Cavaliers didn’t miss a beat Tuesday in a 5-0 shutout of McDonogh in Severn.
Freshmen Stella Bumgarner and Carys Donahoe struggled early with the athleticism and aggressiveness of the Eagles (2-1), but they adjusted after halftime and settled in.
“It was just matching that speed and getting up to it and getting used to it,” Coach Leslee Brady said. “And then our girls said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to play at this speed, at this level,’ and they matched it.”
Donahue and Bumgarner are part of a larger youth movement for the Cavaliers (3-0). Brady said she normally keeps one or two ninth-graders on the varsity team, but this year she has six.
Among those freshmen is Jilly Lawn, who scored a pair of goals.
“With us being so young and so together, we can start forming and getting those connections,” Lawn said. “We’re not afraid to show that we have talent and skill and we’ll use it.”
On Lawn’s first goal, she received a pass from another freshman, Skylar Gilman, and powered in a shot from the left side of the circle.
“They’re very experienced — they all come from club programs,” Brady said. “It’s not like we’re babying them. . . . We’re letting them know, ‘You are a part of this team as much as our seniors and juniors.’ ”
The youth is still a cause for concern for Brady. She expects there to be mistakes, but she knows junior goalkeeper Ruby de Frees can cover them.
Working with a young defense has been a full-circle moment for the veteran goalkeeper, who joined the varsity team as a freshman and was surrounded by veterans on the back end.
Now she’s the vet, guiding the younger players in the field of play, providing tips about transfers and positioning — and making saves when shots come through.
The veteran support also extends to the midfield, where seniors Katie Fichtner and Bridget Donovan (two goals, one assist) would often track back to give the freshmen an outlet to relieve McDonogh’s pressure.
“You never feel like you’re alone. They’re always helping you, guiding you — and not in a mean way at all,” Bumgarner said. “It’s always so supportive.”
The mix of veteran leadership and young energy has Brady optimistic.
“We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves,” Brady said. “But I think, in the back of our heads, we all think this could be a good year for us.”