Field hockey presses forward, flicks away competition

Courtesy of Vassar Athletics
Courtesy of Vassar Athletics
Courtesy of Vassar Athletics

With ten new freshman and ten returning players, women’s field hockey is looking at a whole new team comprised of both fresh talent and experience. Earning the fourth spot in the recent 2015 Liberty League season poll, the Brewers are looking to do big things in their 2015 season. Among the ten returning players, they will return three All-Liberty League performers this season; seniors Lauren Wiebe and Bianca Zarrella, and junior Lauren Shumate. Along with these talented performers, the large group of freshmen and returning players will have an experienced group of leaders to propel their team forward.

Over the past two seasons, Vassar’s field hockey team has certainly seen some of its most memorable moments in the program’s lengthy history. For the first time ever, the team captured double-digit wins in consecutive seasons while earning a spot in the Liberty League tournament. The Brewers even got several votes in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Top 20 poll last year. Despite starting off with an 11-1 record last year, the team finished 11-7. The poor finish was likely due to a lack of players as injuries and illness took a heavy toll on the squad. However, this year this is not likely to be a problem as Head Coach Michael Warari recruited one of the biggest incoming classes in the program’s history. Shumate spoke about the advantage of having a large team: “With larger teams, there are more subs, and with a team this size, we will be able to make it farther than we ever have in VC history.”

The Brewers have actively been working on their skills and fitness over the summer and preseason. Senior Haley Merritt spoke of her summer training; “I would run after work most days to be in the best shape I could be in. I don’t have a turf field at home so I end up playing alone on a tennis court a lot which is always interesting but better than grass!” Some players even played in field hockey pick-up games or leagues over the summer. Zarrella reiterated the sentiments, “I lifted and went on runs 2-3 times a week to get in good physical shape. I also played in pick-up leagues every week to re-sharpen my stick skills and game sense for the season.” During their team pre-season at school, Zarrella explained how they worked on certain effective tactics to push them forward in upcoming games. “We have spent many hours going over our press. The press is a way of spreading the field to discourage the other team from getting the ball down the field, ultimately with the end goal of creating turnovers.”

The team’s fitness and hard work has certainly showed as their success in their early season continues. As of Tuesday, the Brewers were undefeated with a 3-0 record. They opened their season with a strong 6-0 road-victory over Manhattanville College, and later captured their second consecutive and fourth overall Betty Richey title at home this past weekend by defeating Smith College 3-0 and William Patterson 2-1.

The young team is enthusiastic about the season and eager to continue to get to know each other over the rest of the year. Merritt was enthused over the team’s potential, “I think we’re most excited just to get back into league play and really show what we can do, and go further than we have the past two years.” Shumate continued, “Incoming freshmen are adding new talent and skill while returners are looking stronger than ever. Each freshman has their own style of play, which is bringing Vassar Field Hockey to a whole new level. Everyone gets along with everyone. We are already a tight-knit family, and it shows on the field.” Zarrella spoke about getting the larger team to mesh well, “The biggest challenge is trying to incorporate the new players with the older ones. Our preseason included house [and team] bonding, so that we could really get to know each other because I don’t think anything beats playing a sport that you love with friends.” The team genuinely wants to make their teammates proud and make the experience of playing together enjoyable for everyone. These sentiments are reflected with their cherished team saying, “Always take care of your girls.”

While the Brewers have improved significantly over the last two years and have proven themselves to be a major threat in the League this year, the team is hungry for more, and strives every day to get better and better. They have their eye on the coveted Liberty League title and are not stopping for anything. According to Warari, the team is taking a teamfirst mentality. “Each member of the team has been working equally hard, playing smart and playing for the benefit of the team. I feel like we are the closest we have ever been and the deep connections [are] already established and [show] in how we spend time together, how we practice and definitely how we play. I am pleased and proud of the team so far; the effort, time and energy they have poured and keep pouring so far has been good!”

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