Preseason is all about improving on skills, physical fitness, and getting to know the teammates that will be there during the rigors of the season to come. It is all field hockey, 24/7, with the players dealing with the Pennsylvania heat, testing their inner character and heart. It’s the test that will knit this disparate group of young women into a single efficient unit. It is done under the watchful eye of dedicated and demanding coaches. My wife and I arrived at Rappolt Field this morning about twenty minutes before the 9 am start of practice.
This was the third practice of the preseason and already Coach Stone has been able to make an assessment of the overall fitness of her charges. ” By and large I am pleased with the overall fitness, but typically there is always some catching up to do,” she opined. She was pleased with the progress of the group and confident in their abilities. Practice was carefully planned to cover what she wanted to do in the two hour morning workout. As the temperature rose close to 90 Fahrenheit degrees (and I am sure higher on the turf), these young women went through their paces. There were frequent breaks and their heart rates and other vital signs were constantly monitored by computerized devices worn by each player and transmitted to the coach’s iPad.
The practice began with organized stretching and proceeded onto a series of drills designed to promote teamwork and individual skill. For the veterans, it was a continuation of the spring season, while the newest players were learning quickly where their new teammates will be on the field. The players were split into three areas as the goalies worked under the tutelage of coach Dalrymple, coach Janice supervised a drill which looked like the field hockey version of keep away, promoting defensive and offensive skills, while coach Stone worked on skills devoted to patterns close to the goal. The field players switched as each player got a chance at each drill, after which the goalies joined the group for some real live action with their teammates.
At this point in preseason Coach Stone can be pleased the players seemed to be progressing. Later in the practice there was a drill devoted to fast breaks and which impressed me with the improved passing accuracy in the transition from defense to offense. Coach pushed the team to improve their ability and to adjust to various situations, but on one occasion she was not satisfied with the execution, after which practice was stopped for team push-ups ( coaches included).
I continue to be impressed by many of our returning players and their progress. Rachel Bird continued to look good with her accurate passing and Ellen Colbourne continued to show her speed and leadership on the field. Amanda Magadan was not at practice as she finished summer classes to lighten her academic load this fall, since she will be traveling to Chile for the Junior World Cup at the end of November for two weeks after the season. She will be available next week, and for the Rutgers scrimmage.
There was an offensive highlight by Samantha DeMaio as she scored a goal by delivering it through her own legs with her back to the cage. It appears to me that the new class will be contributors to the success of this team. The two Roses, Rosie Shanks and Rosa Jonckheer worked well together in front of the goal. Senior Ami Turner showed her usual grit.
Captain Katelyn Arnold was sharp in goal directing her defensive teammates during the morning. It is still early, and there is a lot to learn in the next week. This early sample whetted the appetite for next week’s exhibition with Rutgers.