It was March 21st, the beginning of Spring, but the much of the intercollegiate athletic facilities had all of the feel of late fall. The Leopards football team opened outdoor practices, and the field hockey team was hard at work on their turf field sharpening their skills in preparation for spring competition debuting this Sunday. Fortunately, the spring weather cooperated and it appears winter was being left behind.
At this point in preparation, its all about regaining fitness and fundamental skills before the team begins to arrange themselves as a functioning unit. Practice, therefore was more drill than scrimmage. It does give one pause to witness the individual skill required to play the game. There isn’t one player on the field that can afford to be weak on the individual skills of blocking, tackling, passing and receiving the ball. That includes the goalkeepers, who aside from practicing these fundamentals, also must spend time in the cage nailing down their position.
For most people observing practices, repetitive drills might be boring but to intense fans it’s a chance to observe the athleticism of these athletes. Ellen Colbourne, one of our rising seniors, demonstrated why she excels in games. She is fast, skilled and demonstrates leadership every time she touched the ball. Lisa Van der Geest shows the balance and reach that we have observed during a game.
As the afternoon wore on you could see the muscle memory click in on everyone, but there is more that isn’t always evident on game day. There is a closeness on this team. They are friends. They tease and kid one another while encouraging their teammates to get better. The game is not played in isolation of one another. This isn’t an individual sport, but a sport where the whole can be better than its parts. That of course is the lesson learned in team sports.
During goalie drills, assistant Sarah Dalrymple reminded the goalies that the beginning of the offensive attack can be the save and clear. “No second shots,” was the reminder to the goalies while their teammates labored on the other side of the field.
Meanwhile, Coach Stone stressed balance and vision, looking forward for space in a two touch drill that increased in speed as the drill wore on. Even the coaches don’t let their skills atrophy as Head Coach Stone coached the US under 17 team in North Carolina last week during spring break.
Recruiting goes on as it looks like Stone has secured verbal commitments from a number of recruits to join the team in 2018 and 2019. There are six commitments ready to be Leopards this fall, but Stone is open to adding perhaps one more, even after the April NLI signing. Reloading is an ongoing and constant process for division one sports.
This sunday is the first competition for the team and the schedule looks like this:
11 am Lafayette v Lehigh
11:40 Temple v Cornell
12:10 Cornell v Lehigh
12;40 Lafayette v Temple
1:10 Cornell v Lafayette
1:40 Lehigh v Temple
2:10 3rd v 4th
2:40 1st v 2nd
addendum: Senior Amanda Magadan, and USA Team member, participated in some of the drills and in a brief conversation with me revealed her amazing schedule. Not only is she working working hard to complete her Dean’s List level academic work, but practices with the US Team on Monday’s and Friday’s. An amazing schedule for an amazing athlete.