by Roger Wistar
After another long run in last year's playoffs, the varsity field hockey team has a deep, experienced roster and high hopes for the upcoming season.
Last year, roster turnover tempered preseason expectations, but what began as a "rebuilding year" ended in overtime of the New England championship game, a nail-biting loss to Andover. This year's Bearcat squad features 13 returners, including seven starters, which has both coaches and captains excited about the team's potential.
"As captains and four-year seniors [including fellow captains Gracyn Campbell '18, Lindsay Reed '18, and Courtney Breen '18], we want to go out with a championship," said co-captain Emma Smith '18. "Our last championship was our prep year, and there is truly no better feeling than when the final horn is blown and your team storms the field."
Reed added that the focus of the girls needs to be pointed in two major directions: "always competing their hardest and devoting themselves to this team."
Certainly the returners are expected to pick up where last season left off, but one of the most important early efforts to ensure success will be integrating new players, said head coach Robin Chandler. This year's squad features one new lower mid and five preps, which is a very high number for the program.
"It's daunting and exciting at the same time," said Chandler. "These kids are super-athletic, they're eager, and they will have an impact immediately."
With the new player restocking the team, Chandler and assistant coach Kait Leonard said that the Bearcats should be able to field quite a deep roster. The team's formation switch last season should capitalize on this depth, as it relies greatly on players being interchangeable on the field.
As with most years, staying in the present moment will be key to managing expectations, said Chandler and Leonard. "We try to focus on the little things. They mean so much. Making the right pass, having the right reception, even off-the-field things like picking up cones and balls. Those little details create a successful culture," said Leonard.
With the return of last year's three leading scorers (Reed, Campbell, and Sandrine Brien '20), the Bearcats hope to generate a high-octane offense. The speed of the team's forwards should allow for some quick-strike opportunities if passes can find the mark, said Campbell.
On the other side of the ball, Smith and Breen will anchor a defense that should also be quick to the ball, said Chandler. Effective communication will be essential to the team's cohesion on defense, said Reed.
To make all these things happen, Breen said that she and the other three captains will need to lead by example, both on and off the field. "Our team and program really value character and personal growth, and we are working to make sure that we lead by example in that sense too," she said.