Freshman sticks with hockey through change in terrain

Mary Winnick

Despite changing from skates to cleats and the rink to turf, several essential skills have easily translated in freshman Eva Oppenheim’s switch from ice to field hockey.

Oppenheim grew up in Pennsylvania where she started playing ice hockey at the age of six. After moving to California in 2012, she continued playing on ice hockey teams in San Francisco, Oakland and Vacaville. But this year, Oppenheim decided to transition to a different type of hockey.

Oppenheim played field hockey for the first time at Redwood, where she learned the basics of the sport, such as how to hold a different stick and the rules of the game.  

Field hockey differs from ice hockey not only in playing surface but also in technicalities. The ball stays on the ground most of the time and players can only use one side of the stick. Field hockey also allows significantly less contact than its ice counterpart, where checking is expected.

Chasing down the ball, freshman Eva Oppenheim (#17) runs ahead of the defender towards the goal.
Chasing down the ball, freshman Eva Oppenheim (#17) runs ahead of the defender towards the goal.

Despite these changes, she was able to adapt easily because of her athletic ability and drive, according to varsity assistant coach Sandy Pfaff.

“She is a natural athlete who has been able to take a passion for that sport and translate it onto the turf field,” Pfaff said. “She looks very comfortable with a stick in her hand. I have to imagine that is a big part of her background playing ice hockey, but it also just speaks to how athletic she is.”

Oppenheim discovered that she likes field hockey more than ice hockey because it allows for more passing and collaboration with her teammates on all parts of the field.

“[Field] hockey has a lot more team work; it’s not just one person or five people, it’s eleven and everyone is working together,” Oppenheim said.

Oppenheim also enjoys how field hockey is focused on skill instead of aggression. Most contact is a foul in field hockey, so the participants have to rely more on their dribbling

Oppenheim used to play the forward position on the ice, which she didn’t like as much because she wasn’t able to work with all of her teammates. She now plays midfield, which allows her to connect with both the defenders and the forward line.

“I find that when you watch her on the field, she is looking to pass, she is looking to help somebody else,” Pfaff said.

Oppenheim has also mastered the skill of dribbling the ball down the field, one of the most challenging tasks for beginning players, according to Pfaff.

“I remember when we were playing against Berkeley and at the start of the half, she started with the ball at the middle of the field and started to dribble. She picked up some speed and started dodging around all of their players. She dribbled down the whole field and then scored a goal,” said junior teammate Sara Wilson. “None of their players were able to stop her.”

Senior captain Neeve Kennedy also believes that Oppenheim’s dribbling skills are  beneficial to the team’s attack and overall possesion.

Freshman Eva Oppenheim begins to dribble the ball down the field towards the goal.
Freshman Eva Oppenheim begins to dribble the ball down the field towards the goal.

“Because she has very good stick skills, she is very good at dribbling until she feels she is in a good place to pass,” Kennedy said. “She’s able to wait until I am completely open to pass me the ball because she is able to hold onto it for a decent amount of time.”

The aggressiveness of ice hockey has made Oppenheim fearless on the turf, according to her teammates and Pfaff.

“She’s one of the most aggressive players,” Wilson said. “She’s not afraid of the ball, she’s not afraid of the sticks, she’s not afraid to get pushed around a little bit.”

Kennedy also believes Oppenheim’s ice hockey experience has been important in helping the rest of the team improve their skills.  

This is apparent in Oppenheim’s dribbling skills which giver her advantages over other teams. Kennedy says that this helps her create space for shots allowing her to become more accurate.

“Some of us were returners from last year so we had the basics down, but she helped a lot with improving our shots. She taught us how to do lifts which is driving the ball up into the goaling shot, which is a more advanced skill,” Kennedy said.

Both Kennedy and Wilson said that Oppenheim is very driven and always wants to improve her skills. Because Kennedy plays on the attack line, she works very closely with Oppenheim in the midfield.

“She is great at transitioning the ball from the defense into the offensive zone,” Kennedy said.