There will be plenty of new faces on Tri Valley League field hockey sidelines this fall. Eleven of the league's 16 first-team all-league selections last year were seniors.
With such a high number of good players graduating in the spring, at least one league coach is unsure of what to expect in 2009. Four of the five top returning scorers, leaving New Hartford junior Andrea Keady (10-4) as the leader in that category.
"Early on, it's anyone's game," said longtime Holland Patent coach Denise Dunn. "It's trying to get a look."
One thing Dunn does know is, regardless of personnel, the TVL will be competitive - as usual.
"No matter how many kids those players graduate, there is strength in those programs," Dunn said.
Defending regular season champion Camden (10-2, 16-3) graduated seven "very, very talented seniors," in the words of Blue Devils coach Shannon McPheron. McPheron, in her ninth season, returns four starters: Aubrey Coon, soph., MF; Kelcy Forbragd, jr., F; Megan Kell, jr., MF; and Kelsey Mastin, sr., D.
McPheron, whose team was unexpectedly defeated by VVS in the Section III Class B final last year, said the league's top contenders will be VVS and New Hartford.
VVS (9-3 TVL, 17-4-1) went all the way to the state semifinals last year after the 1-0 OT sectional final win over Camden. VVS graduated some talented athletes including Vicki Moats and Kathy Junglen. The Red Devils, though, have some pretty good players coming back including: sophomore forward Ashley Palmer (10-2), who scored the game winner against Camden; and senior midfielders Mary Schilling (4-1) and Dominque Coy (2-3).
New Hartford (7-5, 10-6) has a new coach, sort of. Experienced assistant Kelly Reese takes over for Jonna Izzo. Reese has 10 starters returning including Keady, one of the league's non-senior first teamers from 2008. Among New Hartford's other returners are seniors captains Jessie Rys and Katie Cadieux (6-2) and junior Chloe Hutchinson, another captain.
Whitesboro (4-8 TVL ) returns seven starters, including goalkeeper Marissa Vomer. The Warriors' top returning scorer is junior midfielder Allie Webb, who had 2 goals and 3 assists.
There is a young team Oneida (3-9, 3-12-1), where longtime coach Teresa Costello is excited about the potential impact of the sophomore class. Sophomore forward Kissandra Blaiser is the top returning scorer with 3 goals and 1 assist. Costello, in her 21st season, has five other sophomores on the squad: MF Abby McNichol; D Casey Woodcock; MyCarle Kimball and Morgan Bernier.
At Holland Patent, Dunn graduated six players but has the luxury of bringing back goalkeeper Samantha Ranaudo, a senior who was stastically the second best goalie in the league last year. Junior Karlene Freiermuth is working her way back after knee surgery.
"You want to go in positive, play basic ball and be competitive," Dunn said.
The TVL opens its season Tuesday: Whitesboro at VVS; New Hartford at Camden; and Holland Patent at Clinton.
On Wednesday, Holland Patent hosts VVS, and on Thursday: Oneida is at Camden and Clinton is at New Hartford.