As we transition from Fauver Stadium to the Palestra, moving from our fall sports to those of the winter months, it behooves me to reflect upon the most compelling sports narrative of the fall season.
UR Field Hockey achieved the unprecedented.
Led by head coach Wendy Andreatta, Field Hockey won the Liberty League title, a feat achieved only by rivals William Smith and Skidmore, along with throwing together its best record in program history (18–4).
Just let that sink in for a moment.
On paper, this team was expected to experience a lull. What you couldn’t guess on paper was how goal-oriented this group of 30 women would be.
They set incredibly high standards and are defined by what senior goalie Kiran Sundaram explained in a pre-season preview video as hard work, dedication, and passion. Her teammate and co-captain junior Nancy Bansbach explained the stress her team experienced after two straight at-large bids to the NCAA Division III tournament, and according to the attacker, it was the draining anxiety that pushed them to go for the automatic bid.
All on the same page, a summer email chain communicated just that. They were hungry, starving to be Liberty League champions.
But, in the past two seasons, the program lost three first-team All-Americans.
The ‘Jackets were without Michelle Relin, Field Hockey’s all-time leading point scorer, all around assist machine Sayaka Abe, a former NFHCA North Atlantic Player of the year, and Goalie Tara Lamberti, who was invited to the U.S. National Field Hockey Trials in 2016.
Lamberti, who’s completing a graduate degree at UR, volunteered and provided her expertise to the team’s current goalies. Bansbach believed that her influence helped the team, as the former All-American could “understand what was going on” in all of their heads.
Collaboration and cohesiveness were both ideas that Bansbach stressed during our conversation.
“The fact that there wasn’t anyone that was a clear All-American this year […] every single person was so important. There was no position or one person we looked to,” the junior captain said. “Everyone held themselves more accountable and pushed themselves harder because they knew they were responsible for more.”
That responsibility aggregated in their stats. From 2015 to this season, their shot percentage increased by two percent and without their top playmakers, their goals per games surprisingly increased as well.
Though this season’s been chock-fulll of successes, there’s one battle that keeps a chip on their shoulders. Field Hockey’s season was halted two years in a row by Middlebury College, which won the national championship this year. For the ‘Jackets tournament game this year against the Panthers, UR changed up its entire strategy, a blueprint that with more fine tuning and preparation could in the future yield the W.
“I think it’s going to be more of a mentality,” Bansbach said. “Train everyday like you are going to play Middlebury tomorrow. Every game day is going to be Middlebury.”
If you are a sports fan and want a success story comparable to “Remember The Titans” to root for, Field Hockey is your team. While the ‘Jackets might be more akin to a tale such as “A League of Their Own,” their achievements stand uncontested.
“I think that our field hockey team really encompasses the ever better spirit that our school celebrates because we are always striving to do a little bit more than what’s expected of us,” said senior attacker Samantha Dow.
If you don’t want to see our football team continue to get to get creamed, stop by and watch a field hockey game next fall. Research the rules. It’s technically one of the oldest sports played, as the Greeks and Egyptians initiated its inception. Be a sports fan and learn the game.
“Everybody Talks” is a radio show on WRUR’s the Sting that highlights women’s involvement in sports and the social issues that surround athletics. You can listen to it every Friday from 1–2 p.m. on thesting.wrur.org.