Success is nothing new for Biglerville High's field hockey program and its head coach, Becky Smith.

However, when the opening day of practice produced a turnout of only 22 girls, Smith had every reason for concern.

"So you think, 'OK, I'm not sure how we're going to work with this,'" she said. "I knew we would win some games through the regular season."

The Canners did more than that. Following a 1-1 start, Biglerville reeled off 10 consecutive victories, launching the Upper Adams School District team to an eventual 18-5 season and its first share of the YAIAA Division III championship since 2006.

The performance has also produced Smith's first All-Area Coach of the Year designation.

By the time the Canners were the last Hanover area team standing in the District 3 postseason, Biglerville had produced typical Canner numbers -- a potent offensive attack and a defense which produced 11 shutouts.

Just as important, Biglerville had beaten Division III co-champion Bermudian Springs twice, the latter win advancing the Canners into the District 3 tournament.

While the Canners' Rachel Asper led the Hanover area with 24 goals, teammates Bre Musselman and Katie Camara combined for 30 more tallies.

However, Smith said the defense may have played an even greater role.

"Megan Sterling really did an outstanding job with defensive saves," Smith said, adding "Their mission was not let the ball into the cage. Sometimes you can get to a point where you're playing too defensively. I think that may have happened to us as we got deeper into districts."

By then, though, Biglerville was playing confidently, a trait which Smith attributes to a 2-1 midseason triumph over Delone Catholic at McSherrystown.

"I think the Delone game was a pivotal game for us," she said. "Sometimes, our kids -- and I think this is true for a lot of teams -- they use games in the past as a reference going into a game.

"As sometimes you can have it, you can get lackadaisical thinking in your head that this game goes one way or the other because of what happened in the past.

"I called a timeout, and the kids were OK and said, 'We need to pick up our game,' and they did what they needed to do to win."

That lesson carried Biglerville through the rest of 2011 and Smith hopes it will do the same in 2012, though the team could be drastically different.

"The dilemma is going to be with any of the teams in our division, with soccer going to the fall," Smith said about the switch of girls' soccer from the spring. "A couple of our kids will play soccer and they have to make a decision."

Depending upon that decision, Smith, whose 2011 team had only three seniors anyway, may be less experienced than she would normally project.

But for those who return, Smith said the bar can be set just as high as the results of 2011.

"We can do a repeat performance. We can beat Bermudian," she said. "I hope they have that confidence. They've been in tight games and have persevered, and they have that bit of confidence to say, 'Look what we did.'"

ccurley@eveningsun.com; 717-637-3736, extension 144.