Senior year gives any student a lot to think about. It’s a time of reflection and optimism for the future, all while trying to enjoy what is left in the present.
The case is no different for the seniors on the field hockey roster, as midfielders/defenders Mandi Shearer, Molly Doyle and forward Lauren Hunt prepare to enter their final season with the team.
“It’s crazy,” Doyle said. “I was actually thinking about how I’m going to be a senior. I think I have changed so much as a person and a player. It’s been such a growing experience.”
More than three years have passed since these three players were brought together, along with redshirt junior goalkeeper Lizzy Millen, and all of them say they have seen themselves change just as much as the team over the past few years.
“Every year is so different and I think, looking back at the three seasons we’ve been through already, the growth of our team is just incredible,” Shearer said. “Each year, I feel like we’ve been getting better and better recruits and that our morale gets lifted.”
“I feel like our dedication and hard work just improves every year,” Shearer added. “I don’t know when that started, but it was definitely there for my freshman year, and now I’m excited for this season, because I feel like, out of my four years, this will be our best and our potential is just exponential.”
Shearer is a team captain for the quickly approaching season, something that was tough for her to imagine when she was still attending Elizabethtown Area High School.
“Looking back at high school, I always knew that I did want to play, but it’s crazy that I’m now sitting here a week before my senior year, and being a captain is just incredible,” Shearer said. “I never really thought that I would be here. It was always a goal of mine, but it’s hard to imagine what it’s like until you’re here.”
While it was always a goal for Shearer to play Division I field hockey, for Hunt, it didn’t look like a possibility a few years ago. “I always wanted [to play], but I guess I wasn’t confident enough in it,” she said. “So throughout the whole recruiting process, I didn’t approach it as aggressively as I should have, and I was kind of standoffish about it.”
Hunt didn’t start talking to coach Amanda Janney until March of her senior year at Cumberland Valley High School, which, for most, is late in the recruiting process. Her East Coast Field Hockey club coach is the one who talked to Janney and set everything into motion.
“My club coach had actually talked to [Janney] about me and it’s because of him, really, that I’m here,” Hunt said.
“[Janney] talked to him and then she recruited me without really seeing much of me,” Hunt said. “Just off game film. I’m still really thankful to her for the opportunity and all.”
The realization that she was going to be playing Division I field hockey didn’t sink in until she was offered a spot on the team and made her decision. Now, Hunt finds herself as a starter heading into her last season, and she sees herself as a changed person.
“I’m a very quiet reserved kind of person, but I think field hockey and [coach Janney] have kind of pushed me to leave my comfort zone and step up as a leader,” Hunt said.
Then there is Doyle, who is entering her second season as a team captain. She too has seen herself change since leaving Merion Mercy Academy for Temple, in terms of her play and what she demands of herself.
“I think I just really matured as a player, if nothing else,” Doyle said. “I think I’ve become more patient on the ball learning how to read plays better and see the field. I wasn’t as patient as a freshman.”
“Also, with what is demanded of me, I feel that I just demand more of myself than the coaches did,” Doyle added. “I think this goes with any player, in any sport from freshman year to senior year, you demand more of yourself. You expect more from yourself and I just try to challenge myself every day at practice to get better.”
This season won’t be routine. The team made a conference change from the Atlantic 10 Conference to the Big East Conference, allowing the Owls to play new competition. For the seniors, it’s almost as if it’s one final challenge for them.
“It’s definitely a challenge and we’re going to have some really tough teams, but I’m really excited about it,” Hunt said. “It’s a great way to go out, no matter what happens. It’s a great last challenge and I don’t want to go out easy.”
The field hockey season kicks off this weekend with the 2013 Conference Cup Tournament at Geasey Field.
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.