From halfway across the parking lot, the cheering and clacking of field hockey sticks is distinctly audible. Atop a plateau of vivid green grass, Andover’s varsity girls field hockey team are blurry due to the speed at which they run through their demanding drills. Despite the brisk autumn air and constant rigorous training, not a single girl emits a vibe of unhappiness; concentration, yes, but never anything less than the determination it takes to improve.

The 2014 varsity field hockey team is young but talented. (Courtesy Photo)

But unlike the average Andover High football game, some of the only constant attendees of the varsity girls field hockey games are parents. These middle-aged fans do, however, have a lot to cheer about; the team has only lost one game the entire season, and have let in an extremely small amount of goals

The success of this season has been considered fairly surprising by many since the previous season concluded with a bittersweet farewell to many talented seniors, leaving the girls varsity team with one of the youngest teams they’ve had to date; the varsity team even includes two freshman, a rarity. Despite this, Ms. Noone, the coach, has done an incredible job with the team. The team has managed to be successful by utilizing the different skills that each player has to offer, and also by using hard work to accomplish their goals. Similar to baking a cake, the ingredients, or in this case players, are useful on their own, but once combined and put under some heat, they combine to create something fantastic.

Noone said, “We have a really special group of kids blending during practices and games, continually surprising us with their skills and work ethic.  This group has surpassed our expectations already.”

These victories have not come without challenges, however. Although the girls have only lost a single game, this is the product of hard work. The practices are not taxing to such an extent that players cannot perform at their best on game day; they are often described as vigorous by the team. One of the biggest challenges this season for the team is “the fact that we’re a very young team and not all of us are super experienced,” says Megan Hartnett, the team goalie. Noone also agrees that the loss of key seniors was an initial concern of this season’s team.  Despite this, the hard work invested in the group has already paid off.

Field hockey, or “fockey” as it is lovingly referred to by the majority of the girls who play the sport, takes a great deal of skill and endurance. During practices, players improve their foot skills, accuracy and speed. Coaches’ encouragement can be heard as loud as if they were using a megaphone, not only garnering the undivided attention of team members, but also any pedestrian that happens to walk by their practice session. Encouragement is not only heard on the field; the upperclassmen are known to provide effective motivation amongst themselves and for the underclassmen.

The senior leaders of the team are Emma Ingram, Anne Lyons, Georgina Christopous, Meghan Gemmell, Katherine Vieira, Jessica Leone, and Sara Faigel. The majority of them are multiple season athletes–meaning that their extremely successful last year of playing field hockey will not be the last sport they play at AHS. These girls are known for their constant encouragement to not only girls on the varsity team, but also to those on junior varsity and the freshman team.

A freshman on the varsity team, Emma Farnham, has had no trouble integrating with the team; at no point has she felt unwelcome nor has any condescension been aimed towards her. Farnham says, “You think they’re all going to judge you for being a freshman on the team, but they all treat me so well and it’s such a pleasure to be on the team.”

The warm welcome of younger students on the team truly creates a sense of community amongst the crew. By laying out a foundation of optimism and inclusiveness, the band of girls enabled themselves the opportunity of building a stable, constant family that will last the entire season and possibly for at least several seasons thereafter. Noone said that the girls have put a large amount of effort into “gelling as a team,” and this is a result.

This heightened team morale is produced by pasta dinners, spirit days, and pre-game rituals. According to Hartnett, Jessica Leone, team captain, has set the precedent that team members are expected to “go all-out” during spirit days, and the response has been tremendous. It’s no longer a surprise to see a group of giggling girls in matching costumes, whether they’re in all black or all pink, strutting down the halls with a certain confidence that’s only source is a supportive team and the knowledge that one belongs to a fantastic group.

Since their recent success, the team has had to reevaluate their goals. They have already emerged from the season as the victors  of their league, and now must prepare for the challenges ahead. Noone has revealed that they “have the desire to stay focused enough to treat each game as our last as we prepare for the tournament.  After scouting many other teams, I realize that we will need to play at our best from the first game.” As long as the girls play their best, they have an extremely good chance; they have let in only four goals this season, and scored an overwhelming amount that increases with each game.

Despite these confidence-boosting victories, the girls have not forgotten the most important aspect of team sports. Hartnett even said that one of their most effective strategies is that they always remember this: “It’s not all about one person, it’s about the team.”

By Laura O’Brien