HOLMDEL, N.J. - The feel of another field hockey season on the horizon has the Holmdel High School field hockey team excited to be back on the field playing with one another.

A close knit group of girls that six-year coach Melissa Murphy says has formed great team chemistry to begin the season, believes they have the ability to have a successful season this fall.

“We have a strong solid group of girls,” Murphy said. “They’re very close. They’re very fun and they have great chemistry. That’s very special. It’s something we haven’t felt yet and we’re very excited to have it.”

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Seniors Natalie Grana and Lane Fontana will lead the way for the Hornets in 2019.

Grana is the top scorer returning from last season for the Hornets, knocking in six goals from her forward position last fall.

Hoping to help the team build off last year’s six win season, Grana has been working hard to become an even bigger scoring threat this fall and help the team become a very explosive offense as a whole.

“We all have a good sense of where everyone is one the field and that helps a lot with goal scoring,” Grana said. “We have certain goal scoring positions, so if those positions are filled, our chances of scoring are a lot higher.”

Unlike the past few years, Holmdel’s offensive will be its strength.

Forward Sara Safari is expected to have a great junior season after notching four goals last fall.

“Having great vision of the field and communicating well with your teammates really helps with scoring goals,” Safari said. “We’re known as being one of the closest teams out there. I feel teams with great bonding always succeed in their season.”

Safari has really impressed the Holmdel coaching staff in the preseason and Murphy believes the junior is finally putting everything together on the field. 

Senior Carson Fontana returns to the team after not playing last season to focus on basketball. Fontana will play at one of the forward spots and is expected to make a major contribution to the Holmdel offense this fall. 

Sophomore Bella Campillay is also expected to make an impact offensively for the Hornets on the front line as a forward.

“This year we have some really good forwards, so it’s exciting to work with a new dynamic,” Murphy said. “It’s very exciting to have options on offense. It’s going to make for some more exciting games.” 

Lane Fontana will also factor into the Holmdel offense as a left midfielder, helping start the Hornets’ offensive attack up the field in transition. She’ll be a key defender too out on the wing for Holmdel.

“Getting up the field and helping our attackers get the ball into the circle and score is key as a midfielder,” Fontana said. “Trying to get back to help our defenders and marking the most dangerous girls is also very important.”

Fontana is hoping to lead the team in assists this season. 

Joining Fontana in the midfield will be sophomore Madison Yan. After being a forward last season, Yan will be a center midfielder for Holmdel in 2019. Yan has the tools in the eyes of Murphy to be an impactful player on both sides of the ball for the Hornets.

Senior Catherine Haggerty will also see time in the midfield this season for Holmdel. Fellow classmate Allie Geller is another midfielder for the Hornets as will be junior Dagney Phothimat and sophomore Ashley Barbarino.

Holmdel will mostly play a three-person forward line as opposed to a four-person line in years past because of the talent up top and in the midfield. It will also help give the Hornets more support in the back on defense.

The Hornets will have new players stepping into biggers roles on their young back line this fall, beginning with sophomore Emma Quirk as the team’s center back.

Quirk played well as a freshman on defense last year for Holmdel and has already assumed a leadership role for the unit this year.

Juniors Isabella Ji and Ashley Sun will both be key defenders for the Holmdel defense this season. Murphy sees big things from Ji this season as the team’s starting left back.

Fellow classmate Cameron D’Mello is another defender that will see time on the back line for Holmdel.

Holmdel will have a new goalkeeper in the cage this season. Both Jenin Engemal and Lanie Doran are competing to be the team’s starting goalie.

A big goal for the Hornets this season will be to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament. To do that, the team is hoping to be over .500 by the cut off date to get to compete in the tournament.

Another big goal the team is hoping to achieve this season is a win in the state sectional tournament.

All those goals are achievable Murphy believes because of the team chemistry her squad possesses. 

“We win the games that we can,” Murphy said. “We really want to take on those games that we can control. This is a very special group of girls. The team chemistry and the team dynamic is strong enough to help us pull through in big games.”

Holmdel defeated Trinity Hall 4-2 to open up the season on Tuesday. The Hornets will play Raritan on Friday and then host Keyport in its home opener on Saturday.

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports