While building the Eastern field hockey program into a dynasty with 17 straight state championships and seven Tournament of Champions titles, Eastern coach Danyle Heilig has worked with some of the state’s all-time best players.
It’s a roster that has featured future college All-Americans, Olympians and the nation’s all-time leading scholastic goal scorer.
So when Heilig said Vikings senior Madison Morano was “the best player she’s ever coached,” one knows it was a huge honor.
“Endline to endline, sideline to sideline, I don’t think I’ve coached a full field player better than her.” Heilig said. “There’s nobody that contributes offensively, in transition defensively and offensively, and then in the defensive area like Maddy has. Her abilities are second to none to anybody in this state. … The way she moves the ball and the speed and the fluidity of her movement is just phenomenal to watch. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I think she was born to play the game.”
Morano capped off four years with the Eastern Vikings program with a career season. The Penn State recruit tallied 44 goals and 29 assists — both ranked in the top five in the state — and ensured she’d head to college never losing a game (106-0-1).
For her accomplishments, Morano is the 2015 Courier-Post Field Hockey Player of the Year.
“Being my senior year, the program has had such an impact on my life, so I kind of just wanted to give it all I had this year and just put it all out there,” she said. “I think that’s what I did. It was a really fun year and it was kind of my last hurrah, so that’s how I treated it.”
She didn’t set records like her predecessors. She didn’t wow with crazy stats and she never pretended she was the only one on the field. She simply went out there and played.
Her unselfish and talented play was evident every time you looked at a Vikings’ score sheet this year. Morano tallied either a goal or assist in 24 of 27 games, including 13 goals and nine assists in postseason play. Even when she wasn’t scoring, she made sure others were.
“She brings it up the field and we connected very well on the field together,” said senior Nikki Santore, who led the team with 69 goals. “It helped a lot because we both knew where each other were on the field and we were able to get it to each other and finish for both of us. She had just as many goals and probably had half of the assists to my goals. We just worked very well.
“I always knew that if I needed to give her the ball, wherever I was, I could always count on her. She was just such a strong player and it was nice having her right behind me.”
Eastern saw an abundance of scoring from its underclassmen this season, including sophomore Jessica Maute, who reached the 20-goal mark this season. Maute said Morano elevated her game in 2015 by being vocal and a well-rounded player, something Heilig saw plenty of.
“Maddy is very encouraging of the younger kids,” Heilig said. “There’s obviously a natural feeling of underclassmen to be in awe or maybe have a little bit of fear of upperclassmen, especially someone as good as Maddy, but Maddy embraces them. She is constantly communicating and constantly praising and encouraging and instructing them. … To have someone as good as Maddy do that, it speaks volumes about her as a young woman.”
Molding the future of the Vikings was something Morano cherished, especially since she wanted to have a lasting impact on the program.
“I am extremely close with the underclassmen and I think that’s a huge part of leadership, to be there for them so they have trust in you,” Morano said. “They had complete trust in me to be their leader, so I just helped them out as best as I could. It was kind of both ways honestly. We all give each other constructive criticism, so hopefully they keep that going next year, keep the team bond strong and keep the competition going among the team.”
Morano said the leadership role she took on will benefit her for the rest of her life. Heilig, who she’s seen her midfielder mature greatly over the last four years, has no doubts it will continue.
“She’s just a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to coach,” Heilig said.
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