PLYMOUTH – Even as far back as 2008, the Wyoming Valley West field hockey coaching staff knew it had something really special on its hands.
The Spartans' current senior class was, at the time, just a collection of undeveloped, diminutive eighth graders. The coaches can remember when exactly they first realized the group's potential – a junior high game versus Crestwood. Since then, all of their successes have been an expectation rather than a surprise.
We saw them in eighth grade, Wyoming Valley West assistant coach Marilyn Pasqualichio said. And we were amazing. It was hard to put into words other than, ‘Wow, this group is really special.'
The Wyoming Valley West senior class' careers culminated Wednesday in an unprecedented National Letter of Intent Day signing. All six seniors signed letters of intent to play Division I field hockey: Maura Anistranski, Northwestern University; Sauni Davenport, Hofstra University; Casey Dolan, Old Dominion University; Lily Shemo, Quinnipiac University; and Nicole Sott and Riki Stefanides, St. Francis University (Pa.).
They've been working since third grade, Valley West coach Linda Fithian said. People don't realize all of the hard work that goes into making this one day. It's a lot of sweat and a lot of hours.
Anistranski, a forward-midfielder, joins a long list of WVC products to play in the Big Ten. She tied for the team lead with 15 goals to go with six assists. She was second-team all-state as a junior and first-team all-state this past fall. She was named to the state all-academic team. In 2011, she scored 19 goals and 6 assists.
I'm really excited to be playing in the Big Ten, she said. I'll be exposed to really great competition. It'll be a challenge but it'll be fun.
Davenport, a midfielder-defender, hopes to recover from an injury that set her back part of the season. Despite that, she finished second-team all-state for the second consecutive season. In 2010, she made honorable mention all-state. She also qualified for the state's all-academic team. The draw of being close to New York City appealed to her decision to play with the Pride.
When I visited there, everyone would ask me what other schools are you looking at and I would always just say ‘Hofstra,' Davenport said. It is a plus that I'm right next to the city so I'll never be bored.
Dolan joins an Old Dominion team that finished the season ranked eighth and reached the quarterfinal round before losing to runner-up North Carolina. She'll play for former Lafayette coach Andrew Griffiths, who takes over for legendary coach Beth Anders after 30 years. The forward-midfielder was named second-team all-state in each of the past two seasons. She tallied eight goals, two assists this season, and had four goals and six assists in 2011.
Honestly, when I went there, it just clicked for me, Dolan said. When I visited, the girls were so welcoming. Also, the coaching staff is so great.
Shemo powered the Spartans with two goals and four assists this season. Her contributions as a midfielder-defender allowed her to be named all-state honorable mention in 2012.
I'm really excited, Shemo added. I don't think I'd be here today if it wasn't for these five girls. I'm just really excited to play at Quinnipiac.
Sott and Stefanides will be teammates for the Red Flashes. The two forward-midfielders performed admirably on the field and in the classroom, making the state's all-academic team. Sott scored two goals and four assists in 2012, and tallied nine goals and nine assists her junior year. Stefanides engineered the Spartans with 10 goals and six assists last season. She found the back of the net 21 times in 2011 and had eight assists.
They started out and we knew they had a lot of potential, Pasqualichio said. It was through a lot of honor and hard work that they were able to achieve this accomplishment. But they have really great coaches that, we work so well together.
After playing together for 10 years, the six seniors look forward to meeting on the turf at the sport's highest collegiate level.
All through it, we've been together, Anistranski said. At this time, it's great that we're all going to play in the same level. We started together, and we're all going different places, but we'll end it together.