This past weekend, we took part in the Patriot League Tournament, held at American University in Washington, D.C. The following is the text of the speech which I gave at the pre-tournament banquet.
First off, I want to congratulate all of the teams who made it into the tournament. The competition in the league is more intense every year, and getting to this point is no easy feat. Cross, we've sure been through our shares of ups and downs on our road to get here. While we had a rough start this season, our hard work is finally paying off and we've put up some memorable games. We started to turn ourselves around with that hard fought battle against UNH to earn our first road win of the season. Then there was the exciting come from behind win against Dartmouth after trailing 3-1 at halftime. I couldn't have asked for a better last memory on our home field than the game vs American. I think every one of us left a part of ourselves out there on the field that day, even if some of us had to leave a few extra brain cells out there too. Later that week, we had our long overdue first shutout of the season against Brown, and I got to see a glimpse of how spectacular the next generation of Holy Cross goalkeepers is going to be.
Since this weekend may mark not only the last game of my season, but also the last game of my life, I'd like to take this time to thank everyone who has helped make my past four years absolutely unforgettable. First of all, I would like to thank the Patriot League. It is rare to find a league today that truly stresses the values of academics as much as athletics. The lessons we have learned on the field will no doubt influence our performance in our careers. However, there is one other fact about this league that goes unmentioned, yet I find so remarkable. As you are all well-aware, there is no professional field hockey league in the US, and a number of us are not even on scholarship. When you remove money as the motivation for an athlete, only one other factor can account for the dedication that each of us shows week in and week out. This is Love. Love of the game, love of competition, and love for our teammates.
On that note, I want to take this time to say a few words to my team. Freshmen- I regret that I only got to spend one short season with you. If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it's don't take any of this for granted. I know you are going to have those days when the last place you want to be is at practice, but take a minute and appreciate it. Four years goes really fast. To the Sophomores- I have watched you grow from nervous, spastic freshmen to the confident, capable veterans that you all are today. With five starting positions open, so much was expected from you this year and you took it all in stride. It truly has been a privilege to play with you, and your work ethic has been absolutely inspiring. Juniors, playing three years with you has left me wondering how I ever played the first one without you. I'm going to miss that infamous Cohen scream, Tara's random blonde comments and Susie's infectious laugh. After this weekend the team is all yours, and I know that the three of you are going to do a fantastic job with it. Finally, Jenna and Kelly, who would have thought we would be the last three standing? Jenna, I have never seen someone who has had such a natural talent at anything the way you have for field hockey. Kelly, your amazing comeback after tearing your ACL sophomore year revealed more about your character than you give yourself credit for. I'd also like to thank our trainer Amanda. There is not a person sitting in this room who works harder than you, and don't think it goes unnoticed. Your concern for both the physical and mental health of our team is amazing. You put up with us through our best and our worst, when we are stubborn, when we whine and, as I quote from you, when we are "irrational." Ali, thanks for working so hard with me throughout my senior season. You walked into a difficult situation and helped turn things around for us. Finally, Meg if I could say one thing to you- it would be thanks for taking a chance on all of us. You took a chance on me when you asked me to come play for you, when you named me as the starting goalkeeper and finally when you made me a captain. I can only hope that I am one half of the player and the person that you knew I could be.
As a person who is known for hating change, I realize now that what I fear is not change, but loss. I'm going to miss the characteristic way that each member of the corner unit comes into the goal on defensive corners, with KB muttering about the refs and Susie pretty much screaming sentence fragments of encouragement. I'm going to miss catching up on everyone's day during stretching and who can forget flag tag games that are so intense, clothes get ripped off? Now don't tell me that you guys aren't going to miss my country music in the locker room, especially you two Sara and Coletta. What do you mean "She thinks my Tractor's Sexy" doesn't pump you up for a game? Then there are our parents, who reinforce the fact that the crazy apples don't fall far from the crazy tree. There's Mr. Whelan in his giant poncho squeeging the field during warm-ups after the god-awful Worcester weather strikes again, the Welchs officiating the game as 3rd referees, and Mr. Connelly's booming voice as the most intense cheerleader and halftime dancer Holy Cross field hockey has ever seen. In the midst of all of this, what I'm going to miss most is being able to come out for 2 and a half hours everyday with 17 of my closest friends, and do something that I truly love. What scares me about life after this weekend is that I don't know the next time I'm going to put those pads on again and have it be the same. In truth, any opportunity that I have to play in the future will in fact never be the same simply because it won't be with all of you. Field hockey gives us something that most people never get to experience in their lives. Once a week, for a few months in the fall, we get the chance to be heroes. So seniors, this weekend is our last chance to create our own legends that will last us for the rest of our lives. Good luck to everyone and I'll see you out there on the field.
Until Next Time,
This past weekend we played 5th-ranked American. This was a huge game for us and we had been looking forward to it all season. They were one of only two undefeated teams left in the country and their success further hyped the game up for us. We spent the entire week watching film and altering our game plan. We adjusted our defense according to the tendencies of their key players and we mentally prepared ourselves for the fact that we would probably have limited scoring opportunities against them. We had to finish when we had the chance, because it wouldn't come often. That Friday night before we played them, the team was pumped. Practice went very well and everyone just wanted to get out on the field and give it to them.
We awoke Saturday morning like we were preparing for war. The music was blaring in the locker room and for the seniors, this would be our last game on our home field. After four years of field hockey, it is hard to say goodbye to something that you have taken for granted every day. I just expect to be able to go to practice every day and be with my team. It is a weird feeling to think that all of this ends in a little less than two weeks -- I don't know Holy Cross without field hockey. While I was sad that this was my last home game, I wanted to go out with a statement. There was no way American was leaving here without a fight. They had beaten Lehigh the previous week 9-1, and I think that routs like these cause them to underestimate the competition in the Patriot League. However our team did not just want to keep the game close, we wanted to upset them.
The team opened strong, as we had both solid defense and we were pressuring them with our offense. American seemed to be surprised at the energy and desire that we came out with. With solid marking by our backs (Kim, Eli and Kelly), we denied American's infamous forwards from even getting the ball. Our young midfield did an incredible job of containing American's rush and distributing the ball on offense. Coletta and Rolo were making passes I hadn't seen them do all season. Everything was just falling into place and we were playing out of our minds.
Not long into the game, we accomplished the unthinkable. We scored, AND we scored first!! Sara O'Coin had carried the ball downfield and somehow gotten it to Jenna, who pulled the American goalkeeper and assisted to Tara for a beautiful goal. After that goal, we were pumped. We knew we could play with these guys.
After an intense first half, we brought our 1-0 lead into halftime. During the break, Meg reiterated to us that we still had 35 minutes of field hockey left and we had to keep our game up at the high level we were playing at. In the second half, American turned it up a bit. We spent the majority of the first 15 minutes on defense, but still managed to hold them off. They finally scored off of a rebound on a corner to tie up the game. We were not discouraged though, and our offense marched right down the field and put in another goal. Cohen had a sick straight shot during an offensive corner to put us up 2-1. When we scored this second goal, I remember thinking, "Oh my God, we're really going to beat American."
We had 10 minutes to keep the lead. As sweet as this would have been, it wasn't meant to be despite our best efforts. I guess being able to pull a win out when they have to is what makes American a championship team. With four minutes remaining, American overloaded the center zone and scored a second goal. This took the game to overtime. Overtime in field hockey becomes seven on seven instead of 11 on 11, and only three players can be on defense in a corner. After holding American off for about half of the overtime, they put in a goal on a defensive corner. The striker dished the ball right and the forward nailed it right past my reach.
That morning of October 22 was the game of my life. Eight years of playing field hockey all culminated in those 80 minutes on the field. Although we did not win the game, I have no regrets about our performance. Since the game, many people have asked me how thrilled would I have been to have won my last home game against such a seemingly invincible opponent. In truth, the outcome was irrelevant in how I will remember the game for the rest of my life. We truly played as a team that day, a single united force. We showed the confidence and attitude of champions -- determined to not let American come in and push us around.
The game was physical, it was intense, it was thrilling and it was exhausting. It was everything that Division I college athletics should be. How often does an athlete get the chance to play a top five team in their college career? How often does an athlete take a top five team to overtime and almost beat them? While we did not win the game, we had managed to do something an athlete rarely accomplishes in his or her life -- we left it all out on that field, every little bit of us. I have never been more proud than I was last Saturday of the girls on our team. When I think back to my last game at Holy Cross, I wouldn't want to remember it any other way.
Until Next Time,
The entire week of practice was geared towards improving our game before we faced Harvard. Many of the girls on our team have been dying to play Harvard since they know many of the players on that team from high school. Meg was pushing us to fix our mental mistakes at practice. Many of our collapses during games were from our own mistakes, and we were trying to become more consistent in our decisions. Although it was rainy, we still had great support from the Holy Cross students and parents for the game. We hung tough with Harvard for almost the entire first half. They scored on a scramble in front of the net with seconds left until halftime. We started to struggle in the second half, and gave up two more goals before the game was over. Harvard kept their defensive shutout streak alive and we weren't able to put any in on them.
Two days later, we headed up to New Hampshire to take on UNH. We were determined to come home with a win and the mood on the bus before the game was good. We dominated most of the game and put solid pressure on their defense. Jenna and Cohen both scored goals to put us up 2-0. UNH scored on a high chip shot over me to cut the lead down to 2-1 at the half. The second half was an even fight. While we had the shot advantage, UNH had the corner advantage. Late in the second half, I saw a breakaway starting to develop around the 50-yard line and our lead was in jeopardy. The ballcarrier was bombing down the field and the only thing between her and me were two UNH forwards. Outnumbered, I knew the only way they wouldn't score was if they couldn't get a shot off. Once the midfielder passed the ball, I dove into the forward to do what I could and stop the play. The referee called a penalty stroke. I braced myself for what would be the game-deciding shot. If she made this, we would have gone into overtime and I was worried about how our small squad would hold up after having played Harvard two days ago. I tuned out everything else about the game except the ball lying seven yards in front of me. The girl shot low to the left post and somehow I came up with it. The team rushed from the 50 where they had been watching and with that, we had the game. Jenna told me later that she closed her eyes because she couldn't watch. That moment was one of my best memories as a Division I athlete. Being able to come through for your team when the game is on the line is one of the best feelings you can have as an athlete.
The next week we split our two games. We beat Fairfield 4-1, which was good because they always play a tough game with us. Sunday we fell to Yale 2-1. The following week, practice was spent preparing for our first league game -- Colgate. Last season, Colgate turned out to be the surprise of the league. They upset us in the regular season and gave us a humiliating loss in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals. We came out that Saturday ready to make a statement in the league. The game was close for the first half and Colgate notched the first goal on a strong straight shot during a corner. For this game, Meg had completely re-shuffled the line-up. She had moved most of the field players around to greater capitalize on their assets. Something clicked in the second half of the Colgate game and we started playing in synch. Tara, Jenna and Cohen each scored goals to propel us to a 3-1 win. The defense also did an incredible job of not giving Colgate any goals on corners in that half. This was an important win for us not only because it was a league win, but because it gave us some redemption from the tournament game last year where we had blown a 2-0 win to lose 4-2.
That Sunday we faced Boston College at home. Even though they are always ranked when we play them, we usually keep the game pretty close. Coming off our Colgate win, we felt that we had a chance to upset them that day. Although that didn't happen, we still played a great game. Our midfielders and defense did a great job of stopping Boston College from controlling the game. We gave them little room to dribble and even less room to pass. The score was not reflective of how the game was played. Boston College put two goals in and the refs called back one of ours. Despite losing, we elevated our game to a new level this past weekend. We look to carry this progress into practice this week as we prepare for Lehigh on Saturday.
Until Next Time,
In less than two a half weeks we have already played five games, which is over a third of our schedule. We opened with a strong win against Siena. We had an incredible turnout for the game since the rest of campus was back and classes started the next day. We won the game 5-1, and it was great to finally face some competition. We faced Quinnipiac at Yale the following Sunday and suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss. We played most of the game on our side of the field and Cohen put in our only goal with one minute left in regulation. We were frustrated after this game because we felt we had lost one we should have won. Providence was the next Wednesday and it was fun for us to play a night game under the lights on their new field. The field was inaugurated before our game and the stands were crammed with fans. Providence came out pumped and within 12 minutes, they had already scored three goals on us. Defensively, we were on our heels and rattled after having been scored on so quickly. As we began to play our own game, we were able to come back and make it close. The defense stiffened, giving the offense a chance to pressure Providence's young defense. Sara, Tara and Jenna each scored to tie the game at 3-3. Under heavy pressure from Providence's forwards and midfielders, we gave up too many defensive corners. They finally scored on a corner shot to the right post. We ended up losing 4-3. Although we were upset from having lost such a close game, the team learned a lot of important lessons that night. Defensively, we learned that we had to calm down and stay composed if we were going to get anything done. Providence had a talented offense and playing against these kids gave us valuable experience that we will need when we facing nationally ranked teams later in our schedule. We also saw that we had the ability to come back when were down by a lot of goals.
On homecoming Saturday, Northeastern came out to Worcester. Since they were ranked, we were looking for an upset. We hung with them for a while, but they gradually began to edge past us. In the past few games, we have been having a hard time playing for the entire 70 minutes. While we would have shining moments at times, we also suffered from inconsistency and lapses in our play. Very good teams know how to exploit another team's weaknesses and this is what Northeastern did. We lost 6-3 but were encouraged with some of the good moments we put out on the field that day. However, morale was starting to sink since this was the third game in a row we had lost. We faced Rhode Island that following Wednesday and we were seeking redemption. Everyone was hungry for a win and we did a good job of working as a team that night. We outshot URI 16-8, with Tara scoring two goals and Jenna scoring one. We looked to our progress from the 3-1 win into the Harvard game the next Friday.
Until Next Time,
Hi, my name is Sony Kuhn and I am a senior Biology major. I have just finished my applications to veterinary school and will hopefully be called to interview in the winter. Holy Cross has given me the unique experience to excel in both academics and athletics. Few Division I field hockey programs offer their student athletes the chance to play against nationally ranked competition while preparing you for professional school.
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, without ever having heard of Holy Cross until they started to recruit me. A city where high school football and volleyball is king, Greater Cincinnati has nearly three million residents but only five field hockey teams. I can count on one hand the number of games that my high school team won. However, being the goalkeeper on a terrible team gave me a lot of practice. During my junior year, I participated in the futures program, which is a developmental clinic run by the United States Field Hockey Association. Almost all collegiate field hockey players have participated in futures, as it is a major avenue for recruiting. The sessions are held for several hours at a time and are run by college coaches and players. The purpose of the program is to expose high school players to a higher level of play than what they experience in high school. In May of 2001, I was selected to the national futures tournament. This tournament is where our coach saw me play and is the only reason I ever got connected with Holy Cross.
So four years later, I am currently a senior goalkeeper and a tri-captain on the field hockey team. This August I started my last preseason. Luckily, I knew what to expect. After coaching for 20 years, Meg has found a schedule that she sticks to religiously. We know what we are going to be doing at practice and when. As always, the first day we were issued our equipment, sat through meetings and had some evening team bonding. Despite inclement weather the next day, we went though our fitness testing session. Our testing includes a timed 10- and 20-yard sprint, the agility test, the dreaded 300-yard shuttle run, and various stick work drills. Each year, I swear our team keeps getting faster. For the first year since I can remember, everyone passed the shuttle run on the first attempt. During testing, our team divides into two smaller teams (white and purple) to make the competition more fun.
After testing, we immediately picked up with practice. For the first three days, we are in triple sessions. The remainder of the time is spent in much welcomed doubles. All in all, we spend anywhere between six and nine hours a day during preseason doing field hockey related activities. The second day was our "sore day" and after the sessions, we were all in the training room like it was our personal day spa. However, practices were going well and Meg seemed to be happy with how we were playing. Internally, everyone on the team is very close with one other regardless of class. This is an important dynamic to have especially during preseason when the only people you have any significant daily contact with are your teammates. During the second week of preseason, we had the annual "mystery day" where instead of practice, we do something fun as a team. This year, our coaches organized a scavenger hunt and then we went to Ali (our assistant's) house to swim in the pool. As for the rest of the time, we spent preseason breaking the game down into passing, shooting, defensive work, scrimmaging and practicing our corners. We even survived the infamous seven-minute run and sprint series. After playing with just each other for two and a half weeks, we were all ready for some new competition.
On the second to last day of preseason, we traveled to Providence to scrimmage against Brown. With only 15 field players, we were unable to do a full field scrimmage during preseason. We were eager to see how the eleven of us would mesh when we were all on the field at once. Overall, it went well. We beat Brown 4-0 and saw both shining moments as well as areas that needed improvement. As preseason wrapped up that following Sunday, we felt confident that we were ready for our season opener against Siena.
Until Next Time,