Two weeks before fall sports practices were set to begin, Delone Catholic athletic director Dave Lawrence was faced with a dilemma: He had been searching for a head varsity field hockey coach all summer and had no responses.

Someone needed to step up, or there would be no season.

It was an odd predicament for a team coming off a 13-5 season, one of the best seasons in recent history.

Enter Christine Brilhart and Brooklyn Walling.

Brilhart, a Delone alumna, had been a volunteer assistant under former head coach John Henn. She played field hockey for the Squirettes and at Shippensburg University. All summer as Lawrence planned for a potential worst-case scenario, he had been talking to Brilhart to see if she would be willing to step up. A week before practice, she got the call.

Brilhart's daughter Elizabeth is entering her senior season, and the now-head coach knew it was important to make sure the season went on.

Brilhart ran the first week of practices and drills, and she coached the team during its summer league in Littlestown.

But Brilhart is a fifth grade teacher at Annunciation School, so once the school year starts, she will be unable to travel with the team and arrive at games on time. She will have to arrive late to practices.

Enter Brooklyn Walling, a 2013 graduate of Spring Grove High School where she played for the Rockets.

Walling applied for the Delone position, but because she just turned 18 years old in June, she is unable to be given the title of head coach. Someone 21 or older must be present at all times, so in addition to Brilhart, several other parent volunteers have stepped in to help the Squirettes.


Advertisement

Through the first two weeks of practice, Brilhart said she has been impressed with Walling's coaching and has turned almost all of the responsibilities over.

"I never thought that at 18 years old I would be coaching high school field hockey," Walling said. "But I am extremely excited about this opportunity. The first time I got in from of the team and took over the practice I was very nervous, but after a while I got more comfortable and now it just feels right."

Walling said there are pros and cons to being only a year removed from the players she is coaching.

"They get attitudes and I am like, 'Yep, this is high school'," she said. "But it is also good because they can understand me more and I can relate to them on a lot of levels."

This year is likely to be a rebuilding year for the Squirettes, who graduated 13 seniors from last year's team.

This year, they have six seniors.

"Because of how strong of a senior class we had last year, a lot of this year's seniors and the younger players are inexperienced," Brilhart said. "We have about two girls that are coming back that have varsity experience of playing when the game is on the line, the rest do not have a lot of time at all."

With the first scrimmage of the year scheduled for Thursday in Waynesboro, Walling and Brilhart have been teaching the fundamentals to get the younger players game ready.

"You have to crawl before you can walk," Brilhart said regarding the time needed to spend on fundamentals.

"The freshman are learning a lot," Walling said. "I am trying to keep the other girls in positions that they have experience at. Our goal is to just get better every day. I actually think they are doing a lot better than I thought they would, being how young they are."

Instead of focusing on their win-loss record, the Squirettes say they're just trying to improve. And with a senior class that has become an extension of the coaching staff on the field, Brilhart and Walling said they're already seeing growth.

"During our first week, we had a freshman who is inexperienced and has never played make a stop on a ball, get her hips turned around and clear the ball out wide," Brilhart said. "I just blew the whistle and stopped and looked at her. I don't think she realized that she made a heck of a play. The seniors started calling her name out and saying great job."

"It is times that like, the closeness of the team and how much they help each other get better that makes me think that we are going to have a good year," Walling said.

A young coach plus a young team equals fresh hope and optimism.