The Philadelphia Catholic League is ready for a strong 2016 field hockey season after several weeks of preseason practice. Among the teams that made headlines last year is defending league champion Cardinal O’Hara.

The Lions defeated Bonner-Prendergast to clinch the Catholic League crown before moving on to the PIAA state playoffs. O’Hara ultimately finished the season with a final record of 15-5, going undefeated in the Catholic League.

There is no reason they cannot do it all over again as nine seniors return to the squad. Heading the list of veterans for O’Hara are senior co-captains Makayla Gillen (center/forward) and Emily Quintus (center/midfielder). Teammates Hannah Nihill and Sara Hayes also have plenty of experience at the varsity level. Senior Liz Tosto continues to prevail on defense.

“We have our bases covered,” said Cardinal O’Hara head coach Marie Murphy. “We need to keep moving forward. The beginning of the year is always challenging.”

Bonner-Prendergast saw some remarkable improvement last season. The Pandas’ year ended when they dropped their decision to O’Hara in the PCL title game but that marked their first chance to compete for the league crown since 2009. A season highlight was their 2-1 victory over Carroll in the semifinals and they rounded out the season with a 10-8 record.

A strong midfield is one of the greatest advantages for Bonner-Prendie this year. Senior forwards Kerri Quinn and Molly McNulty along with junior forward Carley Brosious are back from last year’s squad. Leading the way in the midfield are senior Riley Dolan and junior Meg Sullivan. Pacing the defense are seniors Casey Rafferty and Kyle Dougherty.

“We’re working our way in with the defenders,” said Bonner-Prendergast head coach Joanne Dolan. “We’re rebuilding our depth. Over days and weeks of practice and scrimmage games, we’ll get better.”

Archbishop Carroll went 11-3 last year and is ready for a whole new season. While the Patriots did not make it to the 2015 Catholic League championship game, they hold a strong postseason history including six PCL titles and have advanced to the state tournament three times since becoming a member of the PIAA.

With eight starters back from last year’s roster, that success looks to continue.

Key players include Sam Swart, Maddie Sutter, Jess Hewitt, Mary Dudas, Meg Foster, Katie Hageney, Kimmy McGroary and Katy Curry.

Head coach Christina Elisio has seen tremendous improvement during practice. While she sees communication, finishing plays, free hits and team spirit as team strengths, her squad still needs to work on cutting to the ball and making faster decisions.

Bishop McDevitt has earned a spot in the Catholic League playoffs for the past six years. The Royal Lancers fell, 1-0, to Archbishop Wood in the opening round of the playoffs last season and ultimately went 4-5 in the Catholic League.

Center and midfielder Sara Affleck is the only player lost to graduation and she is now enrolled at the Catholic University of America. Returning for this year are tri-captains including senior defender and sweeper Mary Bielarski, senior forward Julie Trainer and sophomore forward Julie Rock. Sophomore goalie Sara Murray and senior defender Sam DiCicco will also be starting for McDevitt.

“I look to see us improving our record,” said Bishop McDevitt head coach Karen Dowd. “I’m taking it one game at a time. We will be very competitive and aggressive as a team.”

Lansdale Catholic brings back six senior starters including Brenna Sweeney, M.K. Burger, Laura Vetter, Sarah Delgrande, Caroline Clauss and Michaela Mazzeo. This is a new era for the Crusaders as they welcome first-year head coach Alexis Setley to the program.

“The team’s strength is the fact that they are so willing to work together,” said Setley. “They are going to have a great year regardless of what the outcome is.”

Two graduating seniors from Archbishop Wood have left behind spots to fill: Casey Carrigan is now starting for Division I Long Island University and Brenna Lynch has moved on to West Chester University.

Therefore, the Vikings have plenty of underclassmen. Key starters are senior defender Mary Ann Powell, sophomore midfielder Katelyn Manero and sophomore goalkeeper Kayley Hence.

“With a young squad, we are working really hard and look forward to surprising our opponents,” said Archbishop Wood head coach Dipavali Bhaya.

Catholic League field hockey action begins Wednesday, Sept. 7.