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New Colonials coach Tonya Lardarello hopes to bring the program its first YAIAA title this fall

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New Oxford senior Kaelyn Long discusses the Colonials 5-0 win over South Western Thursday. Matt Allibone

When Tonya Lardarello took over as field hockey coach at New Oxford this summer, one of the first things she did was show the players the 1990 Blue Mountain League championship banner hanging in the school's gym.

Lardarello played for that squad, which was the last Colonials team to claim a league title. Now in her first season as the team's coach 26 years later, the 1993 New Oxford graduate hopes the program can earn its first YAIAA championship banner.

"I pointed out the banner and said, 'The last time the program won a league was in 1990, that's way too long and we've had way too many good players come through this program for that not to happen,'" Lardarello said. "I think it's attainable if we keep our heads on straight."

It won't be easy, but the Colonials might have a team capable of accomplishing that goal. New Oxford brings back most of last year's roster, which went 13-4-1 and reached the league tournament. The team is off to a 2-0 start after beating South Western, 5-0, on Thursday.

But things aren't completely the same as last year for New Oxford. Lardarello has replaced longtime coach Cheryl Mowery, who spent 39 years with the program and won more than 300 career games. New Oxford decided to open the coaching position at the end of last year.

Lardarello admitted it was bittersweet taking over for her former coach, and that she realized when she took the job some players might be disappointed that Mowery wasn't back. She said that topic was addressed at an early team meeting.

"We got the elephant out of the room early," Lardarello said. "We've just got to look forward. I'm taking over the spot of a legend, let's be honest. Hopefully I can carry that on and not disappoint the team or (Mowery)."

So far, the players have embraced Lardarello because of her passion and positive attitude. The new coach has changed how the Colonials practice, with a larger emphasis put on conditioning.

"It was unexpected but Coach Lardarello has really been getting us in shape," star senior forward Kaelyn Long said. "She's very positive and has brought a new perspective to the game for us. Been doing a lot more conditioning as a team, been working on the small passes. Just changing it up a little bit."

Along with the added conditioning, Lardarello has been determined to instill a championship mindset in the Colonials. The coach also won four league titles as a collegiate player at Wilkes University, and she thinks her experiences will benefit the players.

But while Lardarello has tried to improve New Oxford in certain areas, she's still thrilled with the team. Long is arguably the top player in the league, and players like defenders Haley Luckabaugh and Breanne Sauter form a solid unit around her.

"I'm hoping I'm bringing some of that experience with me, of what makes a championship team," Lardarello, who also was an assistant coach at Hanover from 2011 to 2013, said. "I knew some of the players and what they could do, if anything I'm surprised at some of the depth we have."

Luckily for Lardarello, her players share her high expectations. After finishing second to Dallastown in Division I last season, the Colonials want to win the division and the league tournament.

"Last season we had a big win against Dallastown, so of course our goal this year is to go 2-0 against them," Long said. "We actually want to try to win (the YAIAA tournament). We reached where we wanted to last season, we want to go one step beyond that this year."

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