They came within a goal of taking home the state title last year. The Sussex Tech Lady Ravens field hockey squad is overflowing with optimism.

“The team is very excited, motivated and a complete unit,” said head coach Mia Piscarik. “They’ve worked so hard throughout our practices and this preseason. The energy is positive and we hope to continue that throughout the season.”

Last season the Lady Ravens finished 9-5-1 and advanced to the Division I DIAA Field Hockey state championship game, where they lost by a slim 1-0 to powerhouse Cape Henlopen.

Tech had an impressive season, especially within the tough Henlopen Conference, which occupied four of the six seeds in the tournament. If that feat alone wasn’t impressive enough, the Lady Ravens began their playoff run by shocking No. 1 Padua Academy and defeating divisional foe Dover in the semifinals to advance to the championship game.

The only thing standing between Sussex Tech and a title was a second-half goal, the only goal the Lady Ravens gave up during the postseason.

Many players who took the field in last year’s title game are back on the field. In total, 17 players are back.

The squad is pretty balanced, with six seniors, nine juniors, four sophomores and a freshman. Only three are newcomers to the varsity squad. Two were on the JV team.

Every team leans upon their seniors for leadership and the Lady Ravens are no different. Sussex Tech has a strong group of returning fourth-year players in important roles. Returning seniors include Bayleigh Carlisle, Macenzie Hastings, Alexandria Holland, Morgan Johnson, Regan Sammons and Taylor Wroten.

“My entire senior class has taken on the responsibility of leading the team,” Piscarik said. “They are completely focused on creating a team, a special bond with every teammate in order to accomplish their goals. They’re positive, encouraging, organized and hard working. It’s contagious.”

Sussex Tech will face off against tough and familiar competition. Ahead they have a matchup with upstart Smyrna, an improving program that battled the Lady Ravens to a 2-2 tie last season.

Next, they’ll host Cape Henlopen in a rematch of last year’s title game.

Five of their next seven games are against either DI or DII playoff teams from a season ago, including Conrad and Caesar Rodney, which both handed Sussex Tech losses last season.

Down the stretch, Tech will match up against Henlopen North foe Dover, who they met in the last state semifinal. They will play Indian River, a DII playoff team last season, and defending DII champion Delmar.