Emily Swineford has rocketed to a place among the all-time scorers in Selinsgrove's storied field hockey program.
While that's not much of a surprise — the four-year letterwinner is a perennial area leader in goals and points — it's interesting she wasn't always a prolific sniper.
"Early on — because (distributing is) her natural tendency — we really needed to force her to look for shots," said Seals coach Roz Erb. "Once she had some success at that, you really didn't have to ask twice."
Swineford has amassed 199 career points, an assist shy of becoming just the fourth 200-point scorer at Selinsgrove, along with Keli Smith, Morgan Fleetwood and Alicia Mayer. Swineford's 71 career goals rank fifth for the Seals behind that same trio and Hope Burke, who is fourth with 73.
The senior forward can add to those totals today when Selinsgrove (16-3) faces Donegal (15-7), the fifth-place team from District 3, in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament. The game is set for at 7 p.m. at Central Columbia H.S., following a Class A opener between Lewisburg and Wyoming Area at 5.
Swineford said she is excited for the chance to reach 200 points but she never expected to be in this position, not even when she carved out a role in her first season.
"Honestly, no, but starting out as a freshman and getting moved up to varsity gave me such a good experience of playing at a higher level," she said. "It kind of built my confidence and it's been growing since freshman year. Now, I think my confidence is the best thing I have going for me.
"I go confidently with the ball, and if you play against someone who's confident you're a little timid going against them and that helps with ball possession."
Tall and thin, Swineford arrived on the high school scene with speed that rivaled teammate Megan Hoffman, a district sprint champion who is now a starter at American University. Swineford also had varsity-ready skill, which earned her a number of starts and postseason playing time off the bench.
"She was a classic right wing when she came in as a freshman: carry and find the open person with the speed, for sure," said Erb, who was an assistant to Cathy Keiser in 2016. "She had the natural vision and distribution skills. So I think what we forced her to do early was to not always look for the pass but to look for the right shot.
"That's even before ninth grade. Seventh, eighth grade, this kid would set people up. You do drills and she's just natural at setting people up."
Swineford had 10 goals and eight assists in her first year. As a sophomore, she led the Seals with 18 of each. Last season's team-high totals of 23 goals and 18 assists garnered all-state recognition (second team) from the Pa. High School Field Hockey Coaches Association. She matched her career-high of 18 goals just 12 games into her junior season.
A hat trick in Saturday's district championship — her second consecutive three-goal game — gave Swineford a second 20-goal campaign.
"It might look like things come easy to her sometimes because she was blessed with that field presence, vision and speed," said Erb. "But we asked her to expand her game and she did. We asked her this year to work on ball-control skills and defensive skills, patience.
"Something that definitely improved in her game this year is her defensive presence. She could go in at center-mid and do a fantastic job."
What's remarkable for a player who has averaged better than 17 goals and nearly 50 points per year is Swineford never shouldered the burden of being the scorer for the Seals. She certainly commands the attention of opposing defenses, but she has shared the field with the likes of Hoffman and Lehigh starter Anna Piecuch in past years, and current teammates Jess Alba (15 goals), Sydney Schmouder (11), Anna Gephart (8) and Maddie Bucher (7).
"I could not do anything by myself," she said. "I have so many good teammates surrounding me that help me. It's all of us, 100 percent."
Erb said Selinsgrove's team speed is key to its success, including a current seven-game win streak, and Swineford's production.
"If you have (just) one speedy kid, they better be able to eliminate (defenders) and score because no one else can keep up with them," she said. "We've got no fewer than five kids that keep up with Em, and then you have a choice (with the ball) and you make a defense choose. They can't just focus on her because we've got kids that can get their butts down the field. That takes the pressure off her."