Girls’ field hockey prepares for MCAL league with new players

Lauren Steele

The 2018-19 school year is just the fourth season of the girls’ field hockey team. In past years, the field hockey season spanned seven weeks because there were only a few local teams to compete against. This year, the team joined an official MCAL league whose season will last 12 weeks. The team will also have the opportunity to play a number of different schools around the Bay Area.

The other schools participating in the league are Marin Catholic, Tamalpais, Drake, Berkeley High School, University and Lick Wilmerding. Tam and Drake have brand-new field hockey programs this year, and Lick Wilmerding will be playing their second season.

This year’s tryouts were competitive: 66 girls tried out for 32 spots, and over 20 of the girls who tried out were freshmen. Since the program began four years ago, the number of girls trying out has increased steadily. And this year, according to coach Jen Reidy, the freshmen showed up to the tryouts interested and highly experienced.

“We had freshmen come out that were really strong athletes and had done camps [over the summer], so it’s really an evolution of the team,” Reidy said.

Senior player Mathilde Caindec added to her coach’s thoughts on the new players.

“You can already see from their play on the field how hardworking the new girls are, and how interested they are in learning this new sport. You can tell they have a lot of potential,” Caindec said.

Escaping a defender, senior Mathilde Caindec runs down the field.
Escaping a defender, senior Mathilde Caindec runs down the field.

This influx of freshmen bumped some returning players off the roster. Reidy explained that seniors can’t play JV, so they had to be at a much higher level of play and commitment in order to make the team. In addition, many of the freshmen were already well-versed in the rules of field hockey.

“[The freshmen] showed up athletic, focused and with great skills,” Reidy said. “We’re looking to build the strongest team possible, especially now that we’re in a league with a championship. And, it’s a varsity team. We coach to win, we play to win.”

According to Reidy, in past years, with many new players, it was difficult to mesh as a team so early in the season. However, Reidy describes the atmosphere within the team this year as incredibly supportive.

“It starts with the culture. The girls hear me talk about women supporting women, about how we’re all one team, about how we’re the best we can be when we show up and play,” Reidy said. “When you’re having fun and you’re relaxed, you play better. The culture here is very much about show up, work hard and have fun.”

Senior captain Caroline Soja added her own perspective about the team’s supportive atmosphere.

“We have so many new freshmen, and it’s the start of a new school year, so one of my personal goals this season is just to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and has fun. We seniors need to step up as leaders and have a positive impact on everyone else on the team,” Soja said.

Dribbling down the field, freshman Lulu Hemley passes to a teammate.
Dribbling down the field, freshman Lulu Hemley passes to a teammate.

Even though many girls who tried out didn’t make the team, Reidy says 32 girls is already a big roster. However, MCAL rules let coaches split their rosters into two teams.

“I decided, as a coach, when I started this team, that I wanted to take as many athletes as possible. I started this program to give young women the opportunity to play for their school. Taking 32 for one team is a lot, but the league allows me to divide into a JV and a varsity team, which will help us be more competitive,” Reidy said.

Reidy anticipates the team’s toughest competition this year will be University High School, who, in previous years, was a member of a different league. They decided this year to join the new MCAL league, and will be playing Redwood more frequently.

Soja added that the team is continually advancing. Girls’ level of play, knowledge of the sport and interest in joining the team is exponentially increasing.

“Our sport at Redwood is new, so the first year there weren’t as many people and nobody knew how to play, so tryouts were really just about forming a team. But now that we actually have a team, and every year it’s progressing, it’s getting much more competitive,” Soja said.

The team is looking forward to a longer season and tougher competition this year. Reidy voiced that it’s difficult to find the balance between giving all girls the chance to play while maintaining a competitive team.

“We want to give as many players as possible the opportunity to play, but we’re here to win,” Reidy said.

Fans can witness this competitive spirit at the Giants’ next game on Sept. 17 at Lick-Wilmerding High School.