Selinsgrove defense ready when needed

Selinsgrove’s Emily Swineford dribbles the ball past Donegal’s Lydia Miller during a state playoff game.

Donna Prince repeated the questions more urgently, figuring no one heard her over the commotion the first time she asked.

“Who had the assist? Was it Em?!”

Selinsgrove had just added to its lead in the District 4 Class 2A field hockey championship game, and details of the scoring sequence were a pressing matter for everyone on the Seals’ sideline.

Especially so for Prince, who laid the groundwork for the area’s premier field hockey program as Selinsgrove’s head coach from 1976-83. An assistant for the last seven seasons, she was on the scorebook for the district final and needed to fill in the particulars of the Seals’ latest goal — and perhaps record a bit of history.

When no one gave an immediate answer, Prince was tempted to go ahead and make Seals senior Emily Swineford the program’s fourth 200-point scorer with a few quick pencil strokes. She didn’t, not that night anyway — Swineford scored a hat trick to reach 199 career points as Selinsgrove won its 15th consecutive district title — but Prince didn’t have to wait long.

In a place where superlatives such as win streaks, championships and milestones are often commonplace, Swineford accomplished something that hadn’t been done at Selinsgrove in longer than a decade.

Her last goal, in a state playoff win over defending state champion Donegal, put Swineford in the Seals’ exclusive 200-point club with Keli Smith (1996), Morgan Fleetwood (2007) and Alicia Mayer (2006). Swineford’s 72 career goals rank fifth in the program behind that same trio and Hope Burke, who is fourth with 73.

“I never would have imagined making (an impact) like that,” said Swineford, who finished with 201 career points. “Selinsgrove has been such a successful team over all these years and is so well-known, it’s kind of hard to believe. An accomplishment like that is only possible because I played with so many great girls.”

Swineford led the 17-4 Seals to division and district crowns this season with 21 goals and 55 points, marking her third consecutive year with at least 54 points. She was named Class 2A all-state for the second year in a row — her first on the first team. And she was chosen The Daily Item Field Hockey Player of the Year from a stellar group of seniors that included Selinsgrove teammate Katie Bucher, Greenwood’s Grace Lesh, and the Lewisburg pair of Gaby Markunas and Izabel Zaleski.

“Emily’s goals — not all of them, but the majority of them — have come at important times,” said Seals coach Roz Erb, who took the reins from retired legend Cathy Keiser midway through Swineford’s four-year varsity career. “She is skilled enough to score on the best teams in the state. Time and time again ... I have flashbacks thoughout the season of her going up against mids and backs on the best teams in the state and threatening the goal.”

‘What you want in a leader’

Swineford was a model of consistency, whether debuting with 10 goals as a freshman forward on a squad bursting with all-state talent or shifting to an offensive mid role as a junior and posting a career-best 64 points. She scored between 18 and 23 goals in each of three seasons as a starter. She also excelled in the facilitator role, particularly this season when she has twice as many assists (eight) as goals (four) during the Seals’ 7-2 start.

“She’s what you want in a leader, which continues a legacy because as she learned from others before her, there’s a way to handle yourself, and she’s done a fine job on and off the field,” said Erb. “It’s what you want to see in future players caring about their teammates. As intense as Em is, she has a soft-spokenness about her that makes her approachable to younger girls. So she has the confidence and swagger to be able to handle the pressure of being a standout player, but also a genuine warmth about her that allows kids to learn from her.

“That comes from her parents (Mark and Candy), who are fantastic people.”

Swineford, a self-confessed “soccer kid” who didn’t begin playing field hockey until her gym teacher (Keiser) recruited her in seventh grade, plans to continue playing at Bloomsburg University while, not surprisingly, she pursues a degree in Early Childhood Education.

“As I started getting older I began realizing, I am making a mark in Seals field hockey and I can be role model for other girls. Maybe it’s a seventh-grader like me when I began playing or a freshman who needs a little motivation,” Swineford said. “Hockey has become such a big part of my life. It opened up doors for me and is part of my future plans and what I want to do. I love the sport, and I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

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