Freshmen Ashley Bird and Alli Lokie arrived at field hockey training camp this summer with high expectations and even greater uncertainties about what type of role they would fill.
Seven games into the season, the Owls are relying on the pair to thrust themselves above the .500 mark.
Bird, this week’s Atlantic Ten co-Rookie of the Week, assisted on the game-winning goal that sunk Fairfield on Saturday. Lokie, who has started five of the team’s seven games, is filling a rather large void on the defensive end, helping the team to two shutouts.
“[Lokie and Bird] are young, so they are going to make mistakes,” coach Lauren Fuchs said. “They have improved a lot since preseason. I expect them to help us a lot when conference play happens.”
Bird comes into the program having earned second team all-State at Susquehanna Township High School, where she set school records for career points, assists and goals. Despite the accolades, Bird is adjusting to new circumstances and slowly starting to accept her new role.
“I was a varsity starter for four years in high school, so it’s difficult having to start the game on the bench,” she said. “I watch people out there and say to myself, ‘When I get out there, I don’t want to have to come out.’ It makes me work that much harder.”
For Lokie, she’s dealt with her fair share of difficulties, too, since switching to a new position. She played the majority of her high school career at center midfield, a position that sees lots of ball movement. As a freshman, however, Fuchs moved Lokie to defender, a move that has taken her out of her comfort zone.
“It’s tough to move from being around the ball all the time,” Lokie said. “Ever since I started playing [field] hockey, I was at midfield. As a [defensive] back, you’re involved with the ball all the time too, but it’s just not the same thing.”
Teammate Katie King can empathize with the two players. Last year as a true freshman, King was red-shirted after previously expecting a lot of playing time. Now a second-year freshman, King dressed for her first game this season. She sees Bird and Lokie as vital assets to the squad, and added that the two are making a solid transition into Fuchs’ system.
“Those two have stepped right in so well that you wouldn’t even know they were freshmen,” King said.
Despite their progression, ball handling and game speed are obstacles Bird and Lokie have yet to hurdle. Most Division I field hockey programs, including Temple’s, use artificial turf.
Unlike grass fields, which are more commonplace on the high school level, turf is flat and smooth.
The ball’s increased speed also makes it more difficult to maintain possession, fundamentals Bird and Lokie must adapt to in order to be successful.
“The speed of the game is much quicker than I would have imagined,” Bird said. “Ball control is the main thing [the coaches] get all hyped about in practice. Every drill I do in practice is trying to make sure the ball doesn’t get away from me. I stay focused on just that.”
The Owls (3-4) finish out a five-game road trip on Wednesday against Delaware. Bird thinks chemistry is the missing piece of the puzzle that will propel her team to the top of the conference.
“Everyone on this team has to accept each other’s roles,” Bird said. “When we don’t play together, we don’t play well. If we play together, we can win the A-10. I think we will be a team to be reckoned with this year and in the years to come.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.