Younger players comprise field hockey team

September 16, 2010 — by Synthia Ling and Ren Norris

A typical varsity team is usually dominated by upperclassmen, but this season the field hockey team, after losing the majority of its players to graduation last June, has an unusual dynamic. With eight out of the 16 team members being sophomores, the team must look increasingly to its younger players to fill in some of the gaps left behind from graduation.

“The younger players have a lot of potential that we have already seen,” said junior midfielder Anna Ashe. “I think they will continue to improve as the league season starts.”

Out of the sophomores, two—forward Megan Doles and defender Hannah Johnson—played on varsity last year and the remaining six—midfielder Allison Bruno, defender Evelyn Lee, forward Rachel Leonard, midfielder Jenni Miller, midfielder Courtney Ruppel and defender Neha Vellanki—are new to varsity.

“I think we’re fitting in pretty well,” said Miller. “It’s a very comfortable environment and I think we have a good chance this year to do well—we just need to learn to gel as a team. Playing with better players has helped us improve so far.”

Also new is varsity head coach Staci Ljepava, who coached JV last year. She is working with assistant coaches Amber Wilson and Kellie York, the co-head varsity coaches last year. In the beginning, JV had no coach but the team found a replacement with Jennifer Dumas.

“I like the new coaching situation—how we have three different opinions, and each coach has their own input and catches things that the others don’t,” said senior co-captain and attacker Vanessa Block. “It was an adjustment at first to have the head coach from last year become assistant coach, but we still get her same attention and knowledge, she just doesn’t get to come out every day. And the new coach is great, helpful and just as good.”

Bringing experience to the field, senior captains Block, forward Kathryn Nobles and midfielder Ren Norris lead the team as they prepare to play in the highest level, the El Camino division, and face off against tough competition. The team looks to finish even higher in CCS this year, after falling to Presentation in the quarterfinals last season. In addition to powerhouse teams like Los Gatos and St. Francis, the Falcons must also compete with Gilroy, a team new to the division but anticipated to be difficult to beat.

The team has always emphasized strong skills but in the start of the season, the team is focusing on building up fitness and endurance so that players can still run and play throughout the fast-paced one-hour games.

“Our main of doing conditioning at the beginning of the season is to make us play at the right intensity level,” said Ljepava. “We want to finish out the last 10 minutes of a game the way we started the game, and when we go into overtime or stroke penalties, we want to be even stronger. It’s important that when we’re fatigued, we are still accurate, and conditioning is a big part of that.”

With new team dynamics with younger players and an altered coaching system, the players are looking forward to improvements.

“We need to work on the new players getting to know the old players on the field, but this season definitely looks promising, said Block. “I think we can go pretty far if not all the way this year.”

ScoreBoard:

9/3 Preseason vrs. Monta Vista

Score: 2-1, goals by senior Whitney Hansen and junior Annie Barco

9/13 Preseason vrs. Sobrato

Score: 7-0, 5 goals by senior Vanessa Block, 1 goal by sophomore Rachel Leonard and 1 goal by senior Ren Norris

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