By RILEY RANDALL
The UMW women’s field hockey team’s season came to a close last year during the conference tournament semifinal after facing a 3-0 loss to Salisbury on Oct 31. It was a tough end to the postseason after the team’s thirteenth straight 11+ win season, but now the team is poised to return to the playoffs once more.
Reflecting on the loss, coach Jamie Tierney-Harris was proud of the team’s season-long journey and expressed no doubt that they would improve by the upcoming season. “The biggest thing we learned was that we can be successful playing strong teams and we have the skills and teamwork to do it. We showed a lot of improvement from the first time we had played the same team. Playing a tough schedule will only improve our confidence so we look forward to playing the teams we have on our schedule for this season and believe it can strengthen us when it comes to the CAC tournament,” said Tierney-Harris.
Senior captains Lexie Dixon and Lauren Hopkins are anticipating the pressure of this season, though they are confident for what is to come.
“There’s a lot of emotions running through our bodies because it’s our last year and we’ve come to the realization that… this is it,” Dixon said. As a four-year starter and captain, she has had a lot of responsibility on and off the field to boost spirits and to lead by example for her teammates. “Attitudes are contagious, whether it’s positive or negative, so as captains we need to set the example so that our team can ultimately succeed,” she said.
First team All-CAC selection Hopkins is a first-year captain, though she’s started since her freshman year. Each season she’s scored exactly 14 goals, which also led the team last season. “This is my senior year, I have to beat 14 goals. It’s my cursed number,” joked Hopkins.
With each new season comes new players, and this season transfer sophomore Jess Smith is looking forward to returning to her favorite sport. Smith started her collegiate career with Susquehanna University, but after her first year she decided she needed a year off from school.
“I took a year off of field hockey and taught English in Berlin, Germany and did a lot of traveling. So I lived the life of a non-athlete for about 6 months,” said Smith.
It wasn’t long before the itch to play came back to Smith. She decided she wanted to transfer to UMW and began training overseas to get back in shape for field hockey.
“Once I decided on transferring and playing again I started to get back in shape and had to build up the confidence to go to a gym in a foreign country. So overall, I’d say that training for this season was different and more difficult, but after having a year of college hockey already I knew more of what to expect,” said Smith.
Smith said she enjoys the intensity and competitiveness of the fitness program. “At my previous school and lots of other colleges, you run your run test in preseason and then you’re done for the season running wise. I like how Coach Harris is intent on keeping us in shape because in the last minutes of a close game being in top shape is really important and can influence who wins tremendously.”
Many sports teams believe that home field advantage is a major factor in their competitions, and all three players agreed. Hopkins pointed out that field surfaces can change your strategy and type of play.
“The surface definitely makes a difference. Not all turf fields are the same. Yesterday the field we played on was so slow, and our team is used to playing on a faster turf. The field was also a little more bouncy, so that makes a difference,” said Hopkins.
This past Sunday, Mary Washington played a tough game getting edged by Johns Hopkins 2-1.
Smith believes that the fans and parents help give the players their edge as well. “Having fans cheer you on at your home turf is always a big motivator. No one wants to lose on their own turf.”
The team plays their first home game this Saturday, Sept. 7 at noon.