By Lauren Neff
My heart had never beat so fast. As I watched attentively to the orange ball on the end of my teammate Megan Graham’s stick, I squeezed the hands of my teammates so tightly that my knuckles turned white. We had fought Scarsdale to a 1-1 overtime draw in the Sectional Semifinals. It was time for the shootout–1 on 1, player vs. goalie. Tensions were high. Nikki Potter and Fiona Grant both managed to score on Scarsdale’s goalie. Our goalkeeper, Willa Kuhn, magically stopped three of four attempts.
It was Graham’s turn to shoot. Graham carried the ball towards the opposing goalie and with her speed, went around her and scored, clinching our win. Tears began to stream down my face. We jumped on Kuhn, then joined together in a group hug. We were going to the Sectional Finals, the first time Greeley field hockey had ever done so.
I could not have been a part of this wonderful program if I had not made the fateful decision to play field hockey in seventh grade. Like every other female athlete in town, I had played soccer since kindergarten. I had moved from the C team to the B team and eventually to the A team. One day, my friend told our group about how much fun the field hockey team is, that her sister had played and said it was a great way to fool around with friends after school. I called my dad asking if it would be alright for me to play. He responded, “as long as it doesn’t interfere with soccer practice.”
Little did we know at the time, it would cause me to quit soccer altogether. Most girls had never played a sport before, so I had a big advantage–field hockey is a lot like soccer, yet with a stick. I fell in love with the sport. Our team was terrible. We won once that year but it was FUN. As the girls mulled their high school options, I wanted to play field hockey, not soccer, and I had a much greater chance at doing so.
Unfortunately, in two years, Horace Greeley High School’s field hockey team may be extinct. This upcoming season, Greeley’s team is comprised of only juniors and four sophomores. There is a whole JV team to fill. Also, there are no cuts. Right now, besides swimming and boys tennis, field hockey is the most successful sport at Greeley. We were league champions in 2014 and made the Sectional Finals last season. With eight returning Varsity players this season plus good JV players, we expect a successful season and an even better one next year.
“When I became the Head Coach,” said Coach Sukhi Sukhwinder Singh, “ we finished 13th in the Section. The next year, we were 17th. It went to 11th, fifth, third and second…The first year, we won two awards at the Awards Dinner. I am happiest about this past year. We won 19.” Coach Sukhi was named Westchester/Putnam Coach of the Year in 2013.
Here’s the issue: Some 60 8th grade girls played for CYSC and club teams. There are three girls soccer teams at Greeley–Varsity, JV A & JV B. Each team is comprised of around 20 girls. Unfortunately, only three to four spots are open on Varsity this year. Around 15 sophomore girls will likely remain on the JV A and B teams.
So when freshmen girls try out for soccer this August, some will make a team and some will not. However, the real question is, how long will they remain on a team? Many girls will end up playing on JV for two years, then not making Varsity. History has shown that about eight to ten in a class will play on Varsity.
It is so difficult to make the Varsity soccer team here that great athletes will end up being cut from the program because of a lack of space. So what can these girls do? The answer is simple: pick up a stick. One of our Varsity players, Cat Brennan, left soccer for field hockey in ninth grade and started many games as a sophomore.
Field hockey allows every girl who plays it to succeed in some way and grow as an athlete and as a person. Whether that is scoring a goal, giving an assist, winning an award or just being there to support the team and have fun, everyone takes something away from this experience. I would have maybe lasted two years on JV soccer teams if I were lucky. In field hockey, I was called up to Varsity as a freshman. This past year, I started each game, scored 11 goals and received several postseason awards. If I can do it, so can anyone. Please join us.
Lauren Neff is a rising junior at Horace Greeley High School. She enjoys field hockey, basketball, and singing in an A Capella group.