Field Hockey 2018 Season Preview

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ya'el Sarig, Ella Jones, and Josh Lai

The culmination of two years of planning will manifest in a brand-new set of jerseys gracing Paly’s fields this year: the girl’s varsity field hockey team is finally here, and they’re ready to make a name for themselves.

Under the coaching of Jenny Crane, a renowned field hockey player best known for leading Cal to two conference championships as the team’s captain, the all-new roster will grapple with established league rivals who have had field hockey teams for years. But while forging team chemistry in just a few short weeks might seem like a daunting task from an outsider’s perspective, the players themselves are hardly worried.

“I’m not really worried [about chemistry],” said Jessie Arons, a junior forward for the team. “Everyone on my team is super nice and I think it’s gonna be a really fun season.”

The camaraderie the team shares is obvious when they practice, even for a group that’s only been together for a few months. And for good reason: the one thing all the players have in common, other than a knack for the mental toughness field hockey requires, is a relentless determination that led to the sport’s implementation at Paly.

More than two years ago, a petition that garnered significant traction implored Paly to consider adding the sport to its repertoire. Issues quickly arose: field space was a concern, the school would need serious player commitment before agreeing, and the requirement of playing on turf limited the team’s options. But the petition, started by sophomore forward and midfielder Lexi Gwyn, showed administration that the demand was there, and the players are happy to bring its goal to fruition at long last.

“I’m originally from Australia, and field hockey is a super big sport over there,” said Gwyn. “When I moved here I found a good club to play for but our high school had no team, and I realized that I would be falling behind when everyone else was playing in their high school season.”

From there, she said, she realized she could use her voice to garner support and start the petition, which quickly picked up steam.

“I organized a petition and was surprised about how many girls signed it,” said Gwyn. “I realized that people might actually join a team. So I started a club and I found a coach, and after a lot of conversations and hard work, here we are.”

While filling the roster with motivated players was an easy task, finding a suitable coach required more searching. And ultimately, the perfect candidate for the role someone who had only coached for half as long as she’d played. Despite some who may doubt Crane’s ability to lead the team to greatness as a first-year Paly coach, she believes her playing experience gives her an edge when it comes to connecting to the players.

“I’m not as concerned transitioning from a player to a coach, since I’ve already coached at a different high school for three years prior to coaching at Paly,” said Crane. “There are still qualities as a player I possess as a coach though, which can be both positive and a bit challenging as a coach.”

Her own experience as a player who had no prior experience with field hockey has aided her in understanding how to approach a roster where, according to Crane, 95 percent of those who tried out had never played the sport before.

“I have to remember that the athletes are trying something new and unnatural,” said Crane. “Field hockey is different than a lot of other sports typically played by kids growing up in the United States, so I have to reflect on my first years playing and remember to build with basics and refine in the years to come.”

And the game plan for building up those basics? Embodying the principle of KISS: keep it simple, stupid.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember what it was like to have picked up a stick for the first time, so it’s challenging, yet a good reminder to keep it simple this year,” said Crane.

Although the team has already been hard at work since June, the majority of their offseason work so far has involved familiarizing players with the game itself.

“It was important to get as much ‘ball and stick’ time as possible,” said Crane. “The team is still familiarizing with the rules, positioning, strategy, and basic skills, but I have seen a lot of progress in just a couple of weeks! I’m looking forward to building the program and growing together.”

The team plans to ramp up their efforts in the coming month, with their season opener less than a month away. The girl’s field hockey team will play their first home game on Tuesday, September 11th at 4:00 p.m. versus Monte Vista High School. Come out and cheer on your Lady Vikes!