It has been said that it is not how you start, but it’s how you finish. Nothing seems more true when it comes to the Saucon Valley Panthers lacrosse program under the guidance of Jane Hoff. After going winless in her first three seasons as the Panthers coach (2009-2011), Coach Hoff and the Panthers have been climbing the gradual slope of success. For the first time in program history, Saucon Valley girls lacrosse had a winning record, finishing with 10 wins and nine losses in 2016. Coach Hoff and her Panthers followed that milestone with a 12-6 record at the conclusion of the 2017 season. This past season also brought the Panthers a District XI championship and a trip to the PIAA state tournament.
Coach Hoff appears to have the Saucon Valley girls lacrosse program on the high road of success. Saucon Source was finally able to catch up with the Panther chief and ask her a few questions.
Q: Looking back on the 2017 season, what is your fondest memory?
A: This is really hard to answer, there were so many. Great memories include the game we beat Southern Lehigh for the first time, the District Championship win. My fondest memory would have to be early in the season, when we had indoor practice, we decided to do a chalk talk. I had the girls act out specific leadership situations. They were amazing. They acted out ways to be the “Best Teammate.” Everyone had fun and the girls learned specific ways to improve their relationships with each other. That is when we clicked and we became a team.
Q: What are one or two keys to your team’s 2017 success?
A: Our keys to success have to be learning and perfecting the basics. To always practice as if we are in a game. To always give 110 percent, always look at ways to make each other better and to always be humble. The girls must learn how to work together before they can ever be successful. We have a huge group of incredible athletes. Being cohesive is imperative.
Q: What fundamentals do you stress with your players? What are the basics you would suggest to young lax players?
A: Professional lacrosse players spend an 1-2 hours every day throwing a ball against the wall and catching it. Throwing and catching the ball efficiently is essential to the game. They must be able to use their right and left hands equally. The player should be able to equally strong on both sides. Every skill must be done at top speed. Ground balls must be explosive. Cuts through the 8-meter must be sprints. Defensive maneuvers must be quick and precise. The players must come to every practice and be ready to work nonstop for 2.5 hours. There are no excuses.
Q: In the PIAA State tournament, Saucon was the AA #1 seed out of District XI and lost to District I’s #4 seed Villa Maria 20-4. Easton (D-11, #2) was beaten 20-8 by the D-I #3 seed in the AAA classification. Parkland, the AAA #1 seed lost 15-10 to the #4 seed out of District I. What do District XI teams have to do to be able to compete with District I?
A: In order to be able to beat teams in District 1, we need to play and scrimmage teams from District I. We need to be able to see the kind of competition that is out there. As long as we only play teams in our own District, we can never get better. We also need to encourage our girls to play on tournament teams during the off-season. When more of our girls play at a higher level, the better they will become. We also need to be able to hire coaches that can give us the training to beat those higher-level teams. I have been taking lacrosse clinics and trainings all over the East Coast to improve my coaching. The problem is that Saucon Valley cannot pay a higher-level coach. As it is, I have to personally pay coaches to come and give one day clinics or to help out during the season. The pay scale for coaches is just not attractive enough to bring in higher level coaches.
Q: What are your thoughts about Madison Stump tying Bridget O’Donnell (2012-2015) for the Saucon Valley girls lax school record with 152 goals scored?
A: Maddie completely beat the school record of total number of “points” (goals plus assists). Maddie had 200 points. In the past, we did not have a statistician. I did all the stats. If I am going to take a team to States, I need more coaches and a statistician. The school still does not pay for a statistician. I pay for a statistician out of pocket. We can’t ask students to volunteer for such an important job. They come to every game, take all the stats and then organize them into spreadsheets. Statistics are crucial and they need to be accurate. Especially when girls are trying to organize their portfolios for colleges.
Q: Is there a message you want to “shout-out” to all your Seniors?
A: The Seniors are my rocks. They are the voice of the coaches when we are not present. They have seen the growth of this program. When they started in 9th grade, the team had a 4-12 record. They have seen the metamorphosis not only in skills but in belief. They have been the voices of positivity to the entire team. They constantly psych the girls up throughout the day in school, getting them ready mentally for the game that day. They have worked with new players, set up off season practices, weekend team building activities and helped the underclassman prepare for success.
Q: What are your lax plans for the off-season?
A: The top players on the team play on tournament teams in the summer. In order to improve, the players must play on tournament teams. There is where the girls will be able to play with and against incredibly highly skilled players. The coaches of tournament teams are college coaches. The girls will improve more in one summer season than in an entire spring season. In the Fall, we will be participating in a fall tournament schedule. We will also have “Fall Ball” every Sunday afternoon. In the Fall, the team will receive, a preseason packet. The packet will include the expectations and a full workout schedule for the off-season. Starting in January, we will move to 3 times per week with skills and drills. All girls are asked to continue with their endurance in the off-season as well as working with the trainers to develop an individual weight training program to insure strength, minimize injury, and enhance endurance. Next season, we will be having tryouts for the Varsity team. The team will be established by Day 3 of practice. All girls will be expected to be able to run 2 miles without difficulty. Speed and endurance will also be assessed. Being ambidextrous is absolutely a must. It’s not just the skills and endurance. The Varsity player must have a positive attitude. They must show leadership, respect, humility, and passion for the sport
Q: What are your personal plans for the off-season?
A: Summers I spend with my family most of the time. We spend time at the beach and getting our kids ready for college. I also will be going to clinics and working with college coaches on ways to move our team to the next level. We have had incredible support from some of the local college coaches. They come to our games, help review our tapes and help to guide the coaches on ways to improve our coaching. I am always busy trying to find ways to improve my coaching to move the team to push them to their potential.
The future of Saucon Valley girls lacrosse certainly looks very bright. With a number of returning underclassmen combined with a strong rising freshman class, the Lady Panthers are poised to continue down the path of success. With the pipeline full, Coach Hoff will continue to lead the way forward.
Good luck Panthers, the Source is with You!