Sarah Palmer landed her dream job as head coach of the field hockey team at Friends. The Friends grad played four years of varsity field hockey there, won a championship in 2004 and one of her mentors in the sport, Judy Turnbaugh, serves as her assistant.
"They asked me to be head coach, and I jumped at the opportunity," Palmer explained. "I said, 'Absolutely.' I really enjoyed working with the girls last year, so I took full advantage of it."
The Quakers' talent also appealed to Palmer, who worked as a varsity assistant coach last year.
Friends returns eight starters from a team that went 6-2-4 last year and has plenty of room for growth.
In fact, Palmer believes Friends is as good as any opponent in the 11-team Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference.
"I think they are comparable to some college teams I have seen and played on," said Palmer, who played at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. "The passing and the movement they do up the field, and the confidence and stick skills they play with are really impressive."
The forward line of seniors Olivia Reed and Nikki Frank, junior Weezie Foster and sophomore Nikki Frank might just be the team's strong suit.
"This team has a really strong offensive presence," Palmer said.
The defense, led by seniors Ana Garcia-Moreno and Rebecca Handa and juniors Abeni Hinds and Paige Rohde, in front of senior goalie Kathleen Butler, only figures to get better.
"Our defensive pressure is better than it was last year," Palmer said. "I think we are still improving our team defense, and it's definitely coming along quite well.
"We have a ton of depth that we really haven't had before," she added. "Last year was kind of a rebuilding year. We lost only two seniors from that team."
Friends' quick start showed the Quakers could be among the league's elite when they blanked Mercy, 4-0, on the road Sept.7, then dominated three-time defending C Conference champion and visiting Annapolis Area Christian School, 4-1, seven days later.
Foster scored the first three goals against AACS and Ellie Pollack added a second-half goal in the rout.
Foster is playing like Friends' early-season MVP.
"She is fast and has killer hits," said AACS coach Sharon Wiley, whose team was outshot, 24-4. "It's really hard to defend her."
For her part, Foster couldn't be happier to have Palmer as her coach.
"She played at Hobart and she played here at Friends, so she knows the program very well," Foster said. "The last time they won a championship, she was a player here."