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Littlestown nets first division title in 14 years

The Bolts are celebrating their first trip to the YAIAA tournament in a season that has required plenty of adjustments

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Entering this season, members of the Littlestown field hockey team weren't sure what to expect.

On the one hand, the YAIAA's division realignment gave them a good opportunity to reach the league tournament, placing them in the newly formed Division IV. On the other, they needed to replace five starting seniors from last year's team, including twin sisters Shelby and Kelsie Dews.

"Even though we had beaten all of the teams in our division last year, I was a little nervous how this season was going to shape up," head coach Sara Lawyer said. "(Winning our division) was within the realm of possibilities, but I didn’t think it certain by any means.”

So far, things have been working out pretty well for the Thunderbolts.

Currently 11-5-1, Littlestown has locked up its first division title in 14 years and first trip to the league tournament. The Bolts also qualified for the District 3 playoffs and already matched last year's win total.

"I wasn’t expecting us to win the division, I was expecting us to do better than last year," senior Taylor Eader said. "We really wanted it and I think that’s what pushed us more."

READ MORE: YAIAA field hockey tournament bracket announced

How have they managed to improve after losing multiple key players? By learning to adjust.

Lawyer decided early in the season to switch some of her most experienced players to different positions, including all four of her seniors. Breanne McMaster went from midfield to forward, Taylor Eader switched from forward to midfield, defender Lindsey Synder eventually moved to offense and Alexis Morey went from forward to offensive midfielder, while still leading the team in scoring.

The changes took some getting used to, but they've helped the Bolts stay sharp on both ends. Littlestown has scored five or more goals six times this season while never allowing more than three.

“I made the decisions by looking at their strength in terms of stick skills or endurance," Lawyer said. "Taylor can run really well, I thought moving her to midfield would be good. Alexis likes the forward position, but I thought putting her (at offensive midfield) where she could be involved and attack from the top of the circle better might suit her better."

But the Bolts have also endured their fair share of injuries. Senior goalie Rebecca Lee has missed the entire season, while numerous other starters — including Savannah Schisler and Madison Kohls — have been out of the lineup for multiple games as well.

Those injuries contributed to the team's position switching. Six freshman have been thrust into the regular rotation, including new goalie Ariana Grabowicz. But the Bolts are finally getting healthy in time for the playoffs, which has created some challenges for Lawyer in terms of constructing the lineup.

"It actually creates a surprising conundrum in that I'm like, 'Now I have to figure out what we're going to run and who's going to play where,'" Lawyer said. "But that's an awesome problem to have, I'd much rather have everybody healthy."

Littlestown is set to play defending league champion Dallastown in the first round of the league tournament, something that Lawyer admits will be a huge challenge. But after missing out on the tournament for years while competing with teams like Bermudian Springs in the old Division III, the Bolts are thrilled to have qualified.

And with the district playoffs still coming up and so many goals already met, the Bolts believe this season has been a clear success.

"Whether we win, lose, or tie, we’re not going to look at it like that," Morey said. "As long as we play good, to us we win.”