RED HILL — As head coach Jamie Warren and the team practiced on a sun-bathed Tribe field Friday afternoon, there was little differentiating if this was week one of preseason or the eve of the PIAA quarterfinals.
Hard work, some drills, but most importantly — keeping the emotions light — playful in fact.
The Upper Perkiomen field hockey team hasn't gotten to where it is because of a strict dictatorship at the coaching helm, nor has it gotten to where it is because of a lackadaisical practice regimen.
No, this team has reached the PIAA second round to face Wyoming Seminary on Saturday afternoon at noon from Emmaus High School for one reason — its commitment to balance.
Senior captains Casey Umstead, Morgan Aldinger and Maddie Fox can ask for no more this season. Don't call them content because they're not. But the preseason goals they strive for, well ... they met them.
As the team crossed off its last check mark in a PIAA first round victory over Donegal, they accomplished what they set out for — to advance in the PIAA playoffs. This season, in their regards, has been successful.
"I just think we've already so accomplished this season,' Umstead said. "We're not content, but satisfied.'
Yet with all the success this season, a PAC-10 championship and a district title under their belt, this team, according to the senior captains, will not let their play diminish in quality as it enters its second round bout with the Blue Knights.
However, for right now, they're just enjoying the ride.
"We beat what we expected,' Fox said. "I think we're all just really close and we all like each other. We make fun of each other and its fun to play a sport that you love with your friends.'
That is what led to a team that showed up jitter-free in its victory over Donegal in the PIAA opener. Donning red lipstick, the team tried to do what they have done all season — forgetting about the magnitude of the game at hand and sticking to their fundamentals, their teachings to get the job done.
Their opponent has one of the most successful coaches in Pennsylvania at the helm in Karen Klassner and also boasts talented senior captains in Mallory Lefkowitz (forward), Morgan Malone (forward/midfield) and Molly Turner (midfield/back). The team, which recently ousted Selinsgrove — the team that defeated Upper Perkiomen in the first round of the state playoffs last season — fell in the District 2 tournament game to Crestwood before entering this year's state play.
Looking at Klassner's track record with the Blue Knights, it is easy to feel gun shy.
Boasting a 246-30-6 record from 2001-2012, the Blue Knights have won six state championships (last 2011), six district championships, 10 league championships and 26 district playoff appearances.
Of those state titles, one remains a distinct memory across the Upper Perkiomen faithful — 2006.
That 2006 season, Upper Perkiomen lost in the PIAA title over the Blue Knights, its last advancement past the state's first round.
Now, it's a series of firsts for the Tribe. Will this be the year that Upper Perkiomen pushes further into PIAA play?
For Umstead, Fox and Aldinger, it's all about limiting their mistakes and the rest will fall into place.
"Warren said to play your best game and we'll be successful,' Fox said. "If we all go out with our best game then I think we will be fine.'
"I want to go out with a bang,' Aldinger added.