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Hilltop Lancers, sans 12 grads, aim to carry on championship tradition Phillip Brents | Mon, Aug 30 2010 02:16 AM

When a league championship team loses 12 players to graduation, some coaches might hit the panic button. But at Hilltop High School? In girls field hockey? No way.

It’s just another season. It might mean a longer road to the finish line. But more times than not the result has been a greatly satisfying one: another league championship.

“We’re going to carry on the tradition here at Hilltop,” Lancers head coach Rita Delgadillo said.

Delgadillo has seen such scenarios before, both as a player and as a coach. One of Hilltop’s more celebrated alumni, she has added to a program that has provided her with many benefits.

“Playing here at Hilltop opened a lot of doors for me,” said Delgadillo, a 1998 HHS graduate who went on to play women’s field hockey at American University in Washington, D.C.
Delgadillo is assisted this season by another Lancer alumna, Janine Dare, who serves as the team’s junior varsity coach.

Look around the Sweetwater district and Hilltop field hockey grads seem to be everywhere — or, at least, have left their mark. Otay Ranch’s program, for instance, was started by former Lancer standout Wendy DeFord.

Look around the Metro Conference and there are league championship banners galore.
As for 2010? Well, the Hilltop team is still a work in progress.

“We have seen Otay Ranch, Chula Vista and Bonita Vista in off-season tournaments and I think we match up well against them,” Delgadillo said.

This year’s Lancer squad is keyed by just three returners: junior center-midfielder Ashley Keeline, senior forward Michelle Manibusan and junior center-defender Chelsea Ventura.
Impact newcomers include goalie Shannon Malone and midfielder Courtney Creel. Malone is up from last year’s JV team.

Both Malone and Creel, along with Keeline, are all members of the Futures field hockey program, a select program administered by the United States Field Hockey Association in conjunction with the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.

Altogether, Hilltop lost 12 seniors, including its leading scorer, to graduation. Delgadillo has compensated by bringing up, in her words, “significant” talent from the team’s JV squad as well as by adding freshmen newcomers.

The Lancers finished 8-0 in Metro play last season, advancing to the first round of the San Diego Section playoffs.

“Teams south of Interstate 8 don’t get the respect they deserve but I think we have something to offer teams when we play games against North County schools,” Delgadillo said.

In other words, the tradition lives on at Hilltop.

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