The women’s field hockey team at Wilkes is going into what may be their best season in at least three years. Coach Mollie Reichard said the athletes this year are off to a better start than the past two years she’s been coaching at Wilkes.
“The group of kids that I have this year, in all honesty, is probably the best group that I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Reichard said.
Reichard said this improvement is due to increased athleticism, hard work, good attitudes and a positive atmosphere. She said the athletes came into two-week preseason in better shape than ever.
Another reason the team is in such a good position is the amount of returning athletes. This year, there are only five freshmen on the team, compared to 11 new players on the roster last year. This helped make the preseason training go more smoothly, and allowed the players to work drills at a faster pace.
Despite their improvements, the team lost 3-2 against Washington College in round one of the Salisbury Invitational.
The first weekend of competitions led to a loss in the season opener to SUNY Geneseo with a score of 6-1.
“It was a little rough,” Reichard said of the weekend.
But, the Colonels were able to pull through against Wittenberg in the second game of the weekend. With only 18 seconds on the clock, senior midfielder Lauren Pawling scored a goal to tie with Wittenberg 3-3. Freshman Lexi Thompson scored the winning goal after just over two minutes of overtime.
“The kids did a really good job at coming back and staying in the game, instead of letting one or two goals go and then having their reaction,” Reichard said.
The team has already faced challenges with these first competitions, and it won’t be getting easier. Reichard said the games leading up to the Freedom Conference will pit the athletes against tough opponents to try to prepare them to for the goal of making playoffs.
“It’s putting our kids against what should be good competition right away to challenge them,” Reichard said.
Reichard is trying to give the team a competitive edge by placing them against teams that have a higher national Rating Percentage Index than Wilkes does and have done well in their respective conferences. She hopes this gives the players the chance to overcome mistakes early on and learn from them.
“You hit your kids hard to see what they’re possibly made of and what their mentalities are, so hopefully once you, so that way once you get into conference play you have things adjusted, and your kids have been able to overcome things that if it happens in conference play, they know they can do it again.”
She said she hopes the challenge of these competitors will increase a competitive mentality for the girls rather than pressure when facing these accomplished teams.
“I don’t think it should feel like pressure,” Reichard said. “In my opinion, it should feel like more of a challenge, more of a reason to step up your competitiveness and your passion in the game because you know that you can go out there.”
Reichard also said wins against these higher-ranked teams will pump up the girls’ confidence, along with their playing skills.
“If you would win against a higher level opponent, to me that’s just a boost to everything: your mentality, your play, your aggressiveness,” Reichard said. “So to me it’s just about going out there no matter who the competition is and going 100 percent all the time.”
Reichard said upperclassmen have contributed to the positive atmosphere on the team. She said all the freshmen talked about how the elders made them feel welcome.
The athletes also take part in fun activities that always have a competitive edge to them, like bowling and competing in a triathlon. They are separated into four “families” organized in this years’ team theme of Transformers. Reichard said these types of events have made the teammate really feel like they’re part of a family.
“I think that’s one thing that’s really great about the kids that they will tell you is they really feel like they’re a family, compared to just like a group of people playing on a team.”
The field hockey family will have to come together to beat out Widener this Friday, Sept. 14. Reichard said this will be a good game because Wilkes lost to Widener last year by just one goal. The home game will be at 7 p.m. Schmidt Stadium.
No matter who the opponent is, Reichard said it’s important for the players to just get in the game.
“I always think it’s just playing,” Reichard said. “They just have to come out and play their game and when they do, it’s a joy to watch.”