I'm going to be honest, I never thought I would be writing anything like this during my lifetime. I grew up a massive fan of the world of athletics, remembering and memorizing the statistics and histories of baseball, football, and basketball from a young age. Coming from a lineage of Boston sports' fans and living in Connecticut, a rising college basketball power, I only became more enthralled in the games and seasons I was witnessing as a fan. There are always a few you remember and cherish as a fan. I never thought I could include a field hockey team in that group, until now.
The 2013 Duke University Field Hockey season is one I will not soon forget. I became more aware of the sport my freshman year, as our team worked as ball boys for the games, and many of us attended to show support. I had never really watched field hockey before, and most of us still don't know all the rules, but I could appreciate the unseen complexities of the game.
This season the team finished as the National Runner-Up, one short of their goal, but their accomplishments and "never say die" attitude will be something I carry the rest of my athletic career, and hopefully something I can pass onto my kids someday.
The team came off a 2012 7-11 campaign, with zero ACC wins, and a publicized locker room divide that fractured the unity of the team. Six athletes competed in the Pan-American Games, which occurred mid-season, leaving the Blue Devils shorthanded, and in slight disarray. The Pan-Ams are a once in a lifetime experience, and no one blames the athletes for living the dream of representing their country, but upon return it was of course hard to rejoin and build chemistry with the team they left behind.
The success of this season based on these stories and last year only make this more memorable. It is a testament to the character of the team, its leaders, and the coaching staff that coming off a losing season, and coming into a year where they didn't project as a National Championship contender, to become a truly unified team. They defeated the #1 team in the country multiple times, they won four overtime contests, and came from behind to win on multiple occasions. I will remember a 22 save performance by Lauren Blazing against Carolina, ranked #1 at the time, that catapulted a shocking upset (at the time). I'll remember scrunching together in a locker room with my teammates to watch them play in the sleet in Boston. I'll remember turning in a Latin quiz early to watch the final two minutes of the Maryland upset because I had to go to class at halftime while they led 3-2. I'll remember making a three hour trip with nine of my teammates to Norfolk to watch the National Championship game. I'll remember freezing at that game in the frigid wind, while seeing Abby Beltrani and Jess Buttinger start the game without leggings or long sleeves, toughing it out while we went into penguin formation holding hot chocolate to warm our hands. I can thank their success for the bonds and friendships that were made stronger with my teammates through that trip.
Though the team ultimately fell a little short of their ultimate prize, I'm so proud to have learned about leadership, unity, friendship, and hard work while watching them compete. They make me proud to be a Blue Devil. They make me proud to be so passionate about athletics.
Thank you Duke Field Hockey for a season I will surely never forget.