Field hockey: furthest any Saint A’s team has gone

Jonathan Burkart, Crier Staff

The Hawks field hockey season came to a heart-breaking close on Nov. 18, as they lost in overtime to LIU Post in the NCAA National Semifinal. Led by strong performances from players like freshman Hannah Friend, the squad soared to record-setting heights this year. After winning the Northeast 10 Regular Season Championship but losing in the conference final to LIU Post and dropping the NCAA semifinal, the team was “proud” but not satisfied, according to head coach Carolyn King-Robitaille.

This season coach King-Robitaille further cemented her legacy as the winningest field hockey coach in program history, advancing to an overall record of 52 wins, 41 losses. When King took charge in 2012, the field hockey program had never posted a winning season. Under her tutelage this year, the team went 17-5, winning the NE10 Conference Regular Season Championship and appearing in the NE10 Tournament final for the first time in program history. The Hawks also attained their highest national ranking (third) and qualified for their first NCAA tournament.

When asked about her impressive accolades, Coach King-Robitaille replied that she was “humbled” by those accomplishments because she knew how hard the entire program worked to win. King-Robitaille added that while she was proud of her accomplishments, she was more honored to be a part of the Saint Anselm field hockey program.

“What means more to me than any of that is the fact that our players are incredible human beings, and that our alumnae base came out in full force the past couple of seasons to support all of our success and progress.”

The strength of character and depth of skill on this year’s field hockey team propelled them to a 15-3 regular season record. Notably, the team has not lost a regular season home matchup in the last two years. King-Robitaille observed that the team enjoyed many exciting victories this year, but she highlighted the Hawk’s second week matchup against West Chester as a hallmark victory of their season.

“West Chester was ranked third in the country at the time. We worked hard and quickly to develop a game plan the night before since it was a back to back game, and I was impressed with how well the team implemented and executed the plan,” the head coach observed. “I knew we were on to something after that.”

The Hawks went on to dominate in the regular season before dropping both the NE-10 Tournament final and the NCAA Tournament semifinal to LIU Post in overtime decisions. King-Robitaille noted that the team was “disappointed” after working hard all season to achieve their goals before falling just short. “We are encouraged by our journey, but we want to see it through to the end now,” she stated.

The fifth-year coach believes that the biggest reason the team was able to enjoy such success this year was due to the “consistency we have established within the program.”

“We have worked hard to develop a culture during the previous four seasons and those players who were some of the first recruits of my tenure were the seniors and juniors on the squad this year.”

Despite losing seven of those seniors to graduation, Coach King-Robitaille is confident in her team’s ability to move forward and replicate their winning ways next season. While she credited her “fantastic group” of seniors for their “incredible leadership” throughout the season, King-Robitaille emphasized that losing players is not a cause for concern. “[Losing players] is the nature of college athletics. When graduation comes, it creates exciting opportunities for other players to step up and increase their roles on the team,” the experienced coach noted.

One player who will certainly look to expand her role on the team next season is freshman forward Hannah Friend. In her first year of collegiate field hockey, Friend accrued sixteen points by netting seven goals and two assists across twenty-two appearances. Friend, who tallied the second-most points for her team this year, was able to adapt to the collegiate level with remarkable speed. She started her scoring by netting a goal and an assist in her second start against West Chester.

Friend described the overtime losses to LIU Post as “heart-breaking,” but affirmed that she and the team had “a lot to be proud of” after their season ended.

“We worked really hard to get [to the NCAA tournament] and obviously did not get the outcome we wanted,” Friend said. She emphasized the program goal for next season, which was to win the national championship. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I know everyone on the team is willing to give all that they have,” she stated.

Friend stated that her individual goal for next year is to emulate the upperclassmen that welcomed her into the program. “I think it is very important that we all work as a team on the same page and really include all players in every class,” the mature first-year player explained. Friend credits the supportive actions of her teammates and coaching staff with easing her transition into collegiate athletics. The team chemistry they built helped the team unite into a cohesive force, which propelled them to victory after victory all season long.