Field hockey evolves throughout its first three seasons

Julia Scharf

The past three years have been a whirlwind of triumph, defeat, growth and development for the Redwood girls’ field hockey program. This past fall marked its third complete season as an official Redwood sport, giving the players and coaches an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the program thus far.

Junior Erin McCarthy, a three-time varsity field hockey player, commented on the difficult nature of the first season for the team.

“We started out with a really rough season. Most of our games were 0-0 and it was a huge deal when somebody scored, compared to now where our average is around three goals per game,” McCarthy said. “None of us had touched a stick before, so everything we’ve learned in the past three years has been from our coaches.”

Following a competitive game against Marin Catholic, Redwood lines up to shake the other team's hands.
Following a competitive game against Marin Catholic, Redwood lines up to shake the other team’s hands.

In addition to the players’ lack of technical skills, the rules of the game were unfamiliar to the girls, making the sport even harder to comprehend at first.

McCarthy’s teammate and one of the three varsity co-captains, junior Vanessa Veto, echoed McCarthy’s sentiments regarding the struggles the field hockey team encountered three years ago.

“Those 0-0 ties, those were harsh. I think about 80 percent of our games were 0-0 ties in the beginning because none of the teams we played, or ourselves, had the capacity to even score because we were so new to the sport,” Veto said.

While that first season may have presented the players with a number of obstacles, the team has already seen a drastic improvement in their ability to play the game. Assistant coach and former Harvard field hockey player, Aline Copp, commended her players on their dedication to improvement and how that has translated onto the field.

“A lot of girls do Futures Program or Golden State Hockey or clubs or camp, so they really took it upon themselves to improve, which we noticed in their stick skills and their tactical understanding of the game. Where to play, where to hit, where to move—a big difference from last year to this year,” Copp said.

Hard work and dedication weren’t the only factors that contributed to the development of the team. The tight-knit, supportive community that the girls have built both on and off the field has contributed greatly to their overall success, according to McCarthy.

Veto described the team chemistry as being a leading factor in the group’s increasing achievements on the field.

Rushing towards the ball, Redwood works to out-hustle Marin Catholic
Rushing towards the ball, Redwood works to out-hustle Marin Catholic.

“The biggest changes have definitely been getting more and more comfortable with the people you’re playing with on the field, and also getting to know everybody off the field. We have a lot of returners who have gotten closer over the years, but also integrating the freshmen into the team bonding situation has been really great,” Veto said.

It was precisely this environment that head coach Jen Reidy wanted to create when she first had the idea to create a girls’ field hockey program at Redwood, a process that took her two years to initiate. She said sports are an ideal platform for girls to learn important life lessons.

“The intention was really to give young women more opportunities to play sports. We all know that sports are so great. You can challenge yourself on a field and realize that when [you] go for something on the field, that happens in real life,” Reidy said. “Showing up, working hard, being a great teammate, all of those skills transfer into life.”