By CHARLIE GRIGSBY – STAFF WRITER
After an hour and a half into their practice of conditioning, the Centre Field Hockey team lines up for stick drills. It is Wednesday, Sept. 18, four days before the Family Weekend game against fellow Division III opponent Frostburg St.
On paper, the two-win Bobcats should not give the undefeated Colonels much of a problem, but that does not mean Coach Jenelle Anthony is going any easier on her team in practice.
Coach Anthony divides the team into lines; before the drill starts, Anthony demonstrates the drill to perfection, as if she was starting in Saturday’s game.
“She’s always like that. She can show us, physically. She can demonstrate and we can see it. It pushes us harder,” sophomore back Erin Mays said.
“There was a coach that told me the real coaching starts when you put the stick down,” Anthony said. “I hope that with the success [Centre Field Hockey] is having right now, I hope that person realizes that it is so important as a coach to get respect by getting out there and breaking the stick out.”
Anthony’s first two seasons as head coach held a combined record of 20-16, including a victory over nationally ranked Depauw.
What is the difference between then and now?
“Team atmosphere. We came in this year with 13 strong first-years, and the team dynamic has completely been changed,” Mays said.
Centre Field Hockey defeated Frostburg St. 6-2 Family Weekend, scoring four goals in the second half. First-year Megan Flocken scored four times. Seniors Chelsea Klein and Alexis Hebert added a goal apiece.
Eleven days later, Centre Field Hockey defeated Transylvania 9-0. Six different Colonels scored and Centre took 49 shots (43 on-goal). Transylvania took two.
“We have 13 first-years this year, which is huge. It is definitely changed the dynamic but for the better,” senior sweeper Leah Storch said.
“The first thing I said to the girls this year that resonated with them: ‘It does not matter what grade you’re in. We are a team. Everyone needs to contribute at some point,’” Anthony said.
It seems counterproductive; the team is doing stick drills after a long stretch of cardio. How well can the players air juggle after their energy is depleted? Yet there is a method to the madness.
“It is easy to come onto a field and play a fundamental game when you are rested, but to have to do it when you are tired and maintain composure? That’s difficult,” Anthony said.
Deep into the second half, are they playing as well as they had in the first minute? In a close game, can they retain fundamentals, communication?
These skills for endurance proved useful as it took overtime to beat in-conference rival Rhodes. It took a “nose-to-the-grindstone” defensive stand to hold off DePauw. But even in close games, Anthony’s team lets the game come to them.
“When we’re playing our best, we are free-flowing. We talk to each other, and we don’t force the game,” Storch said. “Sometimes we start to force it, and we collapse.”
Centre Field Hockey, 14 days later, suffered its first loss of the season to Bellarmine 1-3. The Colonels out-shot the DII school 17-8; they took 11 corners while Bellarmine took only three.
“You cannot win a game without communication, that is what Jenelle always says,” Mays said. “You have to know what is around you, but you are playing stick-and-ball. You have your eyes on that. You need your teammates to help, to see open passes.”
The seniors act as vocal leaders for a team that has more first-years than returning players. At practices and games alike, constant chatter echoes from player to player. Communication is key to field hockey as a whole, and team leadership stresses it as much as any stick fundamental or style of play.
Communication and sound fundamentals have carried the team thus far through the season, but opponents such as Lynchburg and a revenge seeking Transylvania team on Senior Night still remain on the schedule will require these strong skills.