With a roster restocked with talented players, the varsity field hockey team hopes to hit the ground running and soar once again to lofty heights.
Last season, the Bearcats dropped an early contest to Deerfield, and head coach Kait Leonard said that the result lit a fire under the team, which would go undefeated through the rest of the season until a narrow 2-1 loss in the New England championships to top-seeded Andover.
“It would be great this year to come out of the gate at full speed,” said Leonard. Thus far, the team seems to be taking that cue, starting 3-0 with an aggregate goal differential of +5.
Co-captain Sandrine Brien ’20 said that the team has its sights set once again on hoisting the trophy at the end of the season. Doing that will require total buy-in from beginning to end, she said.
“We want to make sure that all players are committed to the team and bring the energy to the field, regardless of whether we are scrimmaging, practicing, or playing against a big rival,” said Brien.
This year Brien and fellow captains Bella Pugliese ’20 and Taylor Leckey ’20 will have some extra work bringing the squad together, as nearly half of the players on the roster are new to the varsity team..
Despite being new to Hotchkiss field hockey, many of the additions come with considerable playing experience, including overseas, said Leonard. Adding different perspectives from outside of American field hockey will make the team stronger, she said.
“They’ve grown up with the game – they started playing it at an earlier age,” said Leonard. “There’s a passion for the game and a passion for the team, all these girls are coming in with that.”
Over the past few years, the Bearcats have tinkered with their formations and tactics, and the veteran players are becoming more and more comfortable with some of the new strategies, said Leonard.
“The team really knows each other on the field. We’ve been building this structure and formation and it’s been really fun to see kids progress through their time here,” said Leonard.
Teamwork will be essential to success, particularly on defense, said Pugliese. “We need to work together, be poised with our tackles, keep our sticks low, and force the play to the outside of the field,” she said.
Similar approaches will be needed to find the back of the goal on offense, said Leckey. “We have to be able to finish when we have opportunities inside the circle,” she said. “We have to be smart about when it’s the best time to shoot or pass so we can make all our opportunities count.”
Through preseason and the first few games, the results have been very encouraging and augur well for the rest of the season. “Chemistry is hitting a high point right now,” said Leonard.