The youth movement for the Springfield College field hockey team got off to a pretty impressive start this season by going 5-0 to start the year. The start was the program’s best since 2007 and earned the team votes in the NFHCA National Rankings. During that stretch, the tem averaged 4.6 goals per game on 23.6 shots per game. After a string of .500 seasons, the senior quartet of Maggie Kennedy, Paige Laperle, Ann Mahoney, and Dani Sweet were having the perfect start to their senior year.
However, over the last couple of weeks the Pride have dropped four straight games after its blazing start and have dropped to 0-2 in the conference. In this stretch, the team has played two top 15 teams in the nation in Babson (No. 2) and Williams (No. 13). Springfield has averaged 1.25 goals per game while giving up four goals per game. Head coach Melissa Sharpe and her squad has definitely learned a lot about themselves and the team after going through this rough patch.
“I think we have learned some of our strengths. I think we have also learned how resilient [the players] can be,” said Sharpe.
Freshman defender Tirzah McMillan has seen herself rise up to be a leader for the team.
“As one of the youngest on the team, I have learned that I am more of a silent leader. I think I am a presence, but I don’t need to vocalize it.”
Junior defender Hannah Boylan has seen the team chemistry improve in many ways.
“We just automatically click and everyone gets along very well and I think that [the chemistry] helps us hugely on the field.”
Regardless of whether the Pride won or lost, these games are vital to making a deep run into the NCAA tournament. The young players needed some experience playing against some of the best teams and players in the nation. This stretch of games could very well be the turning point of the season, and the team can use it as fuel to propel itself potentially to a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship.
“More than ever I see our competitive spirit come out. We have done a really good job this year of reflecting. Each and every game we are becoming a little bit better, so moving forward we can be really strong,” said Boylan.
For now, Springfield is just focused on it’s day by day tasks.
“Our focus is one game at a time, one day at a time.”
The Pride has one more ranked opponent to face this year at home against MIT. The team plays six more conference games and are by no means out of championship contention. However, the Pride will have a tough road as they face three of the top four teams in the conference. Coach Sharpe believes her team is fully equipped to face off against any team they have to.
“Regardless of who we are playing, whether or not they are ranked, we are up for the challenge. We are as prepared as we can be going in. The effort is there. [The players] come ready to play every game.”
Every young team comes with a learning curve, and that is precisely what these last couple of weeks have been for the Pride. They have an opportunity to improve to 2-2 in the NEWMAC if they are able to take down Mount Holyoke and Smith this week. Hopefully Springfield will turn it around and return to their winning ways.