Field Hockey adjusts to one team season

Alexa Hodges, Staff Writer

After summer break, members of the AHS field hockey team returned to the field with a new coach and only one squad.  As a result of this condensed team, bonding became the focus of this fall season.

Junior defender Sarah Vrhovac said, “This year was just a new start and a new everything, so it gave everyone the opportunity to just come together. We are lucky to have such a good connection with each other.”

The team, consisting of both JV and varsity players, has just 22 girls. As to why there were so few girls trying out this year, senior center forward Paige Northup said, “I think it was just bad luck. We lost 11 graduating seniors, which is hard to come back from. We would have needed at least 11 new players to show up, but again with the bad luck, we unfortunately just did not have a big turn out of younger girls.”

Since there are so many underclassmen, the older players use their own experiences to lend a hand. Senior defender Kendall Coffman said, “We’re almost like mini-coaches. If the younger girls need something and they can’t talk to the coach, they ask us.”

The more experienced players helped the new girls transition into the fast-paced varsity level. “We kind of have to tighten the gap and we have to lead and make sure that everyone is playing at our sea level, even if they’re really used to JV,” Northup said.

Though combining players of different skill levels into one team was a challenge, it didn’t hold the team back in games. Together, they successfully defeated rival North Stafford for the first time in four years, with a score of 1-0 in overtime.

Winning, however, does not mean everything. “It’s not necessarily to beat them, but just to be able to compete with every team,” Coffman said.

As far as the team’s strengths, Vrhovac believed, “We are really good on the field, finding each other on the field, knowing where our teammates are, and being able to get the right pass off to them.”

Northup agreed, “Every single person on the field is willing to play every position. Everyone is just trying new things and everyone is open to it and wants to learn new things.”

Leading this new team is new coach Jen Martinelli. Martinelli, a 2003 graduate of Albemarle, experienced the joy of winning the State Championship when she played for the school.

On her return Martinelli said, “It’s wonderful, mostly because I have a great group of young ladies to work with. I just hope they learn as much from me, as I learn from them.”

The players quickly warmed to the new coach. Northup said that having Martinelli, “gives us opportunities to do things that we couldn’t do in the past. The striking majority of the team has been seniors. Now that we have three seniors and an enormous amount of underclassmen, returners are really getting to become leaders, instead of just filling in the cracks where they are needed.”

When trying to become closer as a team, Coffman said, “The way that Jen runs the program made it really easy to have a good bond. She gave everyone a buddy and has us do something for our buddy for each game. Most games we give them an inspirational note. She also makes us cheer all the time, during warm-ups, during conditioning, and most importantly during games.”

Determined team players and a devoted coach help make a team, but spirit days are also a way for lifting the team up. The field hockey players at Albemarle are known for rocking crazy outfits.

The team dressed for America day, superhero day, and they even dressed up as the Duggars from the reality show, “19 Kids and Counting”.

In between laughter, Vrhovac mentioned how important spirit is to the team. “It gives everyone the opportunity to say, ‘Oh, what sport are you playing’ or ‘when is your game?’ So it is like advertising the game to everyone.”

The field hockey team has already played half of their season, with a 3-3 record. Along the way, they had a few goals in mind.

Besides just having fun, Coach Martinelli aims to “create team unity and create a team pride that will become what Albemarle field hockey is all about.”

Northup said, “Mental toughness is what it is all about and I think that this year we are getting out of that fog a little.”

This year, the girls have really carried a positive attitude. Coffman said, “If something bad happens, we don’t get on ourselves, we stay as a team.”