Why We Play: Field Hockey Seniors

Vassar Field Hockey class of 2022, Heidi Zahnleuter, Sophie McGrath, and Carina D’souza Image: Courtesy of id.films

One of our most memorable moments was storming the field when the buzzer went off after the 2018 Liberty League Championship. We had just defeated University of Rochester 1-0. The feeling of jumping around in our team huddle as all the spectators joined us was euphoric. That season there were a lot of firsts for the program—our first national ranking, our first Liberty League championship, our first All-Americans, our first time going to the NCAA’s, and funnily enough, our first-ever collegiate season. We were so lucky to join the team at that time, and it helped us instill a winning culture that we now carry on as seniors.

The reasons we ended up at Vassar playing field hockey vary. Growing up, we all played different sports. For Heidi, basketball was her first sport. She played on AAU, travel and high school varsity teams beginning in second grade, but the outdoor, fresh-air element of field hockey was something that basketball could not offer, and it clinched her love for the game. From leaving middle school preseason hot and sweaty to doing post-practice sprints in the snow, field hockey always provides the mental and physical challenge and adventure that she loves. Sophie played two other sports on top of field hockey. Her family deemed sports an important and valuable experience that not only released her energy, but taught lessons of discipline and guidance. Carina primarily played field hockey; her dad played in India in college, and after trying a lot of sports, she landed on it too. She and her dad shared a common love for the game and would spend hours practicing and travelling all over the country for workouts and tournaments. We started playing for a variety of different reasons, but we all ended up together at Vassar. 

Our recruiting class was smaller than average. With only three of us, we had a lot of responsibility to harbor a team environment that was fun, safe and competitive. Our upperclassmen made every practice, team Deece, lift and conditioning session challenging, motivating and filled with fun. Now as seniors, we have the opportunity to pass down our love for the game, hard work and dedication to our teammates and best friends. Field hockey has taught us to take care of each other on and off the field and that bond between us has been worth all the blood, sweat and tears that go into playing a sport. 

Something unique about our team is our self-led dynamic. Players often manage practices and positional lines conduct half-time huddles among themselves. We are always striving to make each other better. We are encouraged to address problems and adapt as a group, which creates a culture of empowerment for our team. Though empowerment and success have characterized Vassar field hockey during our years here, they have not by any means come easy. But through our self-led team dynamic and ability to collectively problem-solve, we have not only seen success, but also garnered valuable life skills and lessons for us to take along the way. 

Playing a collegiate sport is grueling. Committing more than 30 hours a week for the majority of a semester every year comes with its challenges, physically and mentally. But through these challenges, the reward of a group of empowering women surrounding you as your best friends makes it all the more worth it. 


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