Valley Field Hockey Striving for Success with Netsch
Life is all about adjustments and, if that sentiment hadn’t already been made clear to the players on the Valley Regional field hockey team, they should certainly know by now.
The Warriors graduated a senior class of 13 athletes who led the team to a 17-win season that included an appearance in the Shoreline Conference final and the top seed in the Class S State Tournament in 2021. Longtime coach Beth McCabe Powers retired during the offseason after winning more than 100 games on the sidelines. Gratefully, a familiar face is leading Valley Regional into the future.
After spending the last eight years as an assistant coach in the Valley field hockey program, Randy Netsch took the helm for the Warriors in the 2022 campaign. Netsch, who is also head coach of the Valley girls’ lacrosse team, has long a history at the high school that has both him and the Warriors prepared for the road ahead. Thus far this year, Valley has a record of 3-2-1 that included a 3-0 victory against Haddam-Killingworth last week.
“Very familiar with the players. I’ve also coached lacrosse at Valley Regional for 20 years,” Netsch said. “I’m pretty familiar with everything there—a lot of the people, the administration everything else. So, it’s a smooth transition.”
Valley was on the road to face Haddam-Killingworth for its lone game of the week and defeated the Cougars by a 3-0 score on Sept. 30. It was an important win for the Warriors after they had previously taken a 3-1 loss to H-K in their season opener.
Senior captain Lily Grow scored 2 goals for Valley Regional in the victory. Fellow senior Samantha Brookhart-Bardelli had 1 goal with 2 assists for the Warriors. Junior Abby Reardon chipped in with an assist. Senior captain goalkeeper Fallyn Belisle made 4 saves to get the shutout in net for Coach Netsch’s club.
Unfortunately for Valley, one of the team’s best defenders, junior Mimi Siegel, suffered a season-ending injury the day before the Warriors played H-K. While the team is still a work in progress on defense, Coach Netsch is also focusing on how the Warriors can put points on the board this season, especially after graduating so many athletes from last year’s high-powered attack.
“We just need to pressure the goal a little bit harder,” said Netsch. “A lot of games we get shots off, but we don’t get to the goalies pads quick enough. We just need to be a little more aggressive around the goal circle.”
Grow and Brookhart-Bardelli are two of Valley Regional’s main cogs on offense this year. Both athletes bring different skillsets to the field and complement each other well—something that was evidenced by how they performed in the win against H-K.
“[Brookhart-Bardelli] probably got the biggest hit on the team, and she’s always dangerous when she gets near the goal,” Netsch said. “Lily is a little bit faster. She’s got a little bit more speed, so Sam is usually trying to set Lily up be in a good position for goals.”
Grow and Belisle are serving as two of Valley’s senior captains this year alongside Madeline Rice. In addition to the captains and Brookhart-Bardelli, the Warriors’ senior class also features Callie Breitenbach, Ashley Cap, Mykenzie Parker, Allison Safran, and Isabela Siegel.
As they Warriors look for stability, they are hoping to see more players step up and contribute on the offensive end of the field this season. Among them, junior Clara Shea is expected to be a factor on the front line for Valley. Coach Netsch also believes that sophomore midfielder Alessia Pisanzio can make an impact.
“[Pisanzio’s] gotten much stronger from last year to this year,” said Netsch. “When she puts everything together on the field, she’s one of the best players out there for us.”
It’s easy to assume that generating offense means sending as many players as possible toward the opposing goal with reckless abandon. However, Coach Netsch knows that success in field hockey—and for the Warriors—requires balance and timing in order to make every trip down the field worthwhile.
“It’s not as fast as lacrosse, the other sport that I coach, but it’s very similar to soccer and the way you move the ball around the field and try to transition from your defensive end to your offensive end as quickly as possible,” Netsch said. “You always try to get numbers up, you know, so you had to have advantage going to goal.”
The Valley field hockey team wants to make some noise in both the Shoreline Conference and State tournaments by the time the 2022 season comes to a close. Despite the early ups and downs, Coach Netsch has confidence in his team and thinks that the mental game is going to be the biggest adjustment for his players to make going forward.
“I think we’re just a little apprehensive about our skills and don’t have quite the confidence that we should have in ourselves. I think they’re better than what they think they are,” said Netsch. “If everybody puts their game together on the field, I mean, we can we can play with just about anybody out there. “I think we might shock a few teams if we can put together all the pieces of the puzzle.”