New players bolster bench

Featured Image: Field Hockey team on the field during a game against Meredith College on Sept. 9 played at Birdsong Field. McKenna Howenstine | Marlin Chronicle

With the start of the fall semester, a new season begins for Women’s Field Hockey at VWU. The team recruited 13 new members; 12 are first-years from different areas along the east coast and one, sophomore Hannah Gautreaux, is a transfer student from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Head Coach Ryley van der Velde is in her second year as coach for the Women’s Field Hockey team. Prior to coming to VWU, she had experience coaching at the collegiate level as the assistant coach at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. She came to VWU from Rocky Hill Country Day School.

“[Preseason] was great. Last year we had 14 girls on our roster and 11 on our sport fields. I brought in 13 newcomers, so we have 26 this year, and preseason was awesome. They came in competitive and ready to work,” van der Velde said. “I’m really proud of the way the upperclassmen are leading by example.” The dynamic of any team changes when newcomers are welcomed. For the Women’s Field Hockey team, the addition of 13 new members has its benefits and downfalls.

“With more numbers, it has its good things and things we need to work through,” van der Velde said. “I think one of the good things is just the inner squad competition. The level of play and the way that we’re competing is just night and day from last year.”

Senior Willow Baker is looking forward to playing with a fresh dynamic this fall season.

“13 new people is a big change, and I think this is the best dynamic we’ve had in a long time,” Baker said. “It’s really exciting in a way with a different level of competition.”

Adding 13 new members to the team will be a big change for returning players, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I had a senior captain say to me that change is hard. And I think it’s so true that when things are hard or when you’re uncomfortable, run towards that,” van der Velde said. “I think that’s where we are, and I think we have a couple of people who are in limbo or transition in our program, so I just keep encouraging them to buy in and to see the positive.”

Senior Madeline Gonsalves, who, like Baker, has been on the team since her freshman year, is also looking forward to this year’s dynamic. Gonsalves encourages the team to take a more unified approach, whether on the field or on the sidelines.

“It’s really important, especially on a team of 26 people, to understand that everyone has a role, and if you’re not playing, you’re still a part of every single win,” Gonsalves said. “Without giving 110%, the people on the field are not going to be as good as they are without everyone working together.”

With all of the work put in over the summer, Gonsalves is confident in the team’s abilities.

“I think the VWU field hockey team is something to look forward to,” Gonsalves said. “The backs of our team shirts say ‘make them believe’ and it’s a way to help the school believe in us.”

Van der Velde echoes the need for this support from Marlin Nation.

“I would encourage the university to just stay with us whether it’s a win or a loss,” van der Velde said. “I hope that the hype around [the team] is way greater than what their coaches are giving them because they deserve that.”

On Sept. 1 the team went away to play against Drew University in New Jersey, winning in a double overtime with a final score of 3-2. Sophomore DJ Holsclaw had a great nine saves during the game. First-year Ava Stauch made two goals with assists from junior Lauren Hedspeth and first-year Katherine Druiett. First-year Mary Ruffin scored the winning goal with an assist from first-year Dani Poulsen, giving the Marlins a season-opening win.

The team’s next home game is Saturday, Sept. 16 at 11 a.m., when they play hosts to Neumann University on Birdsong Field.


By: Chloe Booher