Sussex Academy field hockey prepares for 2023 season

Lady Seahawks seeking fourth straight state tournament appearance
August 24, 2023

Story Location:
21150 Airport Road
Georgetown, DE 19947
United States

The Sussex Academy Seahawks field hockey team is eager for their 2023 season to begin.

“I feel like last season we were super close,” said Callie Short, senior forward. “We grew from our mistakes each and every game. We got better and we kept growing. Growth was a big part of our team last year, and it’s about continuing that same team this year.”

The Lady Seahawks will need to replace four seniors who graduated from an 11-5-1 team that made it to the quarterfinals of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament. While the team cruised to a 5-0 victory over St. Mark’s in the first round, they fell 4-0 to the Division II runner-up Archmere Academy.

“We had some strong seniors, some strong juniors, and we used those strengths to build our team,”  said Leah Hunsinger, second-year head coach, noting they worked off of what the previous coach had built.

A total of 16 members of last year's quarterfinals team are returning, and there have been two transfers who may play a significant role for Sussex Academy. Short, a University of Lynchburg commit, is joined by two other seniors who were on the team last year, midfielder Angie Chilel-Ramirez and goalie Kaitlyn Musgrove. Six juniors will play for the Lady Seahawks in 2023, led by Michigan State commit Rilyn Lehman, Morgan Leeper and Shelby Manlove.

“We’re a young team this year, but we’re a young team that was all together last year. What we lack in age and experience, we make up for in chemistry and that bond they’ve built. Most of these girls have been playing together since eighth grade,” said Hunsinger.

She believes strong leadership from the upperclassmen has been helpful and that the camaraderie on and off the field has built the chemistry of the team to a level she has yet to see in her coaching career.

Short echoed her coach’s thoughts and believes it is a group of girls who can not only play their positions well but effectively communicate on the field.

“Here at Sussex Academy, the team is awesome and you always feel like you have a place on the team, which is really special,” Short said.

Junior Morgan Leeper believes the team is off to a good start.

“It’s a very hot preseason, but it’s going well. We’re pushing ourselves, pushing each other, and we have been improving since the first week,” Leeper said.

Fellow junior Shelby Manlove believes the team’s chemistry will produce positive results during the 2023 season.

“I think that offensively we have some great shooters, and defensively I think we have some great communication and leadership in the backfield that will help us really compete and stay strong throughout games.”

Another key to success for the Lady Seahawks will be the play of Rilyn Lehman. The junior has already committed to play Division 1 field hockey at Michigan State University and made second-team all-conference the last two seasons. After scoring four goals in her freshmen year, Lehman doubled her goal total and added six assists her sophomore year. She is hoping to build off last season’s success.

“If we got scored on, we were able to handle it and react back to it, whether it was scoring right away or just taking it down the offensive side,” Lehman said “The key is reacting well to it.”

The future Spartan believes mindset plays an important role in on-field performance.

“Keeping your head up allows you to do more as a positive player and not be so negative,” Lehman said “It helps you to mentally build up your game.”

The majority of the girls on the Lady Seahawks 2023 field hockey team have been playing the game since elementary school; some even started in kindergarten. The grueling grind of a field hockey
preseason during the dog days of summer can test the mental and physical makeup of players but could bear fruit as the season progresses.

The girls' first game will be considered a home game against Wilmington Charter but will be played at DE Turf Sports Complex at noon, Saturday, Sept. 9. Their first true home game will be at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 12, against Smyrna.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter