By COURTNEY RAMPEY
In mid-August, the University of Mary Washington field hockey team, myself included, got together for the first time to run two miles and test our strength. For an entire week, we busted ourselves out of bed before the sun even came up and mentally prepared ourselves for six hours of field hockey. After all the sweat, leg exhaustion and countless hours in the training room, we ended our preseason and readied ourselves for what would be quite a journey.
Game after game, we always snagged the win, whether it was by total domination or a heroic goal near the end of a close match. Our record was rapidly improving, and, with each game, we grew stronger as a team.
We encountered our first loss when we travelled to play Christopher Newport University. The game went into two overtime periods, as we struggled to find the back of the cage. Shot after shot, corner after corner, we just could not get the ball past the goalkeeper. CNU’s Marlene Lichty slipped the ball into our goal after her team got a breakaway. That loss struck us hard, but it was our wake-up call. We were good, but we were far from invincible.
Midway through the season, some practice days were conditioning days, and while we sprinted continuously around the field, the thought “why are we doing this?” sometimes crossed our mind. This is the conclusion that we all came to: we run strong out here so that we can be at our best out there. It was long and tiresome work, but each “jonesy,” every “X run” and all the footwork drills added up to the new standard of play that we brought with us to every game. And it showed.
In October, we took on the No. 1 Division III team in the nation, and our biggest rival: Salisbury University. It was, without a doubt, the most intense game we played this season. After Lisa Charney took that ball down the field to score our third goal, the clock ran out of time, ending the game 3-2. I don’t think we’ve ever celebrated that much after a game. We yelled and hugged one another, even our coach lost her voice she was so excited. Before the game, we adopted the motivational phrase “today is the day.” That day definitely was the day, and the phrase stuck with our team.
Then, we faced another of our rivals, Wesley College, twice. Both times, we beat them. We won the first game on Homecoming, 4-1. The second game was for the CAC Championship title, and we won 4-2.
“The road to Geneva, NY” was the slogan for the NCAA Regionals, and it was the path that every team was on in this tournament. As CAC champions, we received a first-round bye in Regionals. The second and third rounds of Regionals were held at the UMW Battlegrounds, where, we told ourselves, we had never lost a game, and that we weren’t going to lose this weekend. We topped off the first round, 3-1, against Eastern University.
In the second round, we faced Lynchburg College, a familiar opponent. Just like the first time we played them in the beginning of the season, we finished the game up 3-2. Unlike the first time, however, we finished as the Regional champions, earning us a spot in the Final Four.
Coaches, other UMW teams and friends saw us off with grand farewell as we stepped onto the Abbott bus that would take us to New York, and after about a nine-hour trip, we had reached our destination.
We had a schedule already planned out for us when we arrived, complete with our practice time, the banquet ceremony and the time that we would go out to the field. The Friday before our game, however, we went to an indoor facility to spread our knowledge of field hockey to people with special needs. It was a great experience to see how excited they were to learn from us and how happy they were when we showed them different shots on goal.
We followed up that session with lunch together in a barn-style dining room. There, with our new friends, we got a little side-tracked from eating and focused more on who could pull off the best dance moves. Everyone had a fantastic time, and it felt awesome that we weren’t just in Geneva to play hockey, but we were also there to give back to the community.
We came into the first round of the Final Four a little off our normal game, which proved to be detrimental. We were beaten 4-0 by Montclair State, and it left us speechless. We were not supposed to be the team that got pummeled in the dust like that. It was different, and it was not what we had expected, but we left Geneva with this: we had made it to the Final Four, which had not happened since 1993. We also left with the honor to represent UMW by getting this far. We had the support of an Eagle Nation. Although we did not get the satisfaction of finishing on a valiant game, we still had a successful season with which we could be proud. We ended the 2012 season with a record of 20-2.