After being MIA “in Canada” for a while here, I decided I should do a little series for Kerry in Canada on what I’ve actually been up to lately. Thus, begins my tale of the last couple months…
Part 1: The Glory
After a wildly successful summer field hockey season (my first time back to the sport in just under 10 years, having not picked up a field hockey stick since my senior high school season in the fall of 2003), I was feeling sad that it was ending and I would have to go back to my regular life of school, trying to force myself to work out at least twice a week, and netflix. Although the thrill of using my free time to catch up on full seasons of TV shows in a single day and brainstorming new and exciting adventures for me to partake in to write about for my blog sounded oh so exciting, I had gotten a little taste of what it used to be like to play competitive sports and I was hooked!
With my confidence boosted after playing (and holding my own) against some pretty skilled opponents in the summer league, scoring the first (of the two) shootout goals that led our team to win the league championships, and winning the award for Player of the Year for our summer team (although apparently this was due to my lack of a social life and great cell phone data plan, i.e. speed and enthusiasm at responding to emails about who would be coming to the games, in addition to my actual playing skills), I decided I would try out for Dalhousie’s field hockey team this fall and attempt to “relive my glory days” as a collegiate athlete. While the team is not considered varsity by Dal (basically Dal doesn’t pay for field hockey as a sport), it is called varsity-club since it is Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS, similar to the NCAA at home) registered and is at a varsity competition level.
After a week of tryouts in early September that left me in need of an ice bath, I ended up making the team. I was by far the oldest player on the team, being the only graduate student, 4 years older than the next oldest player, and 10 years older than the youngest. However, I held my own with the young’uns and earned myself a starting spot and lots of playing time. The way our league is set up, we play at two weekend tournaments where we get to play all five other teams in our league each weekend: Acadia University, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Prince Edward Island, St. Mary’s University, and St. Francis Xavier University. This year the two tournaments were at UPEI and UNB. While we usually only had 2-3 actual practices a week, we also would have one day a week of fitness training and often a team meeting night as well (before or after which we would go on a team run), , and Friday nights were often filled with team dinners. While we technically had off for the non-tournament weekends there were really only two in between and one weekend was a sleepover team-bonding night at the coaches’ cabin and in general, just filled with team activities. Needless to say…while a lot of fun, it was busy!!!
PEI, SMU, and Dal have been the three top teams in recent years with the other three being competitive but definitely a step below the top three. In our first tournament we beat Acadia, UNB, and StFX but lost to both PEI and SMU. However, our team was fairly “young” (lots of rookies, even those at least one was pretty old!) and we played well considering. For the second tournament at UNB, we decided to rent vans instead of a bus to save money (since again, not being a varsity team, we don’t get money from the school for travel, even though we do have some generous Dal FH alums). I, being the only person on the team over 25, was elected to drive the third van but was pleasantly surprised to get not a mini-van like the other two coaches did, but instead an all white Ford Flex (apparently Ford’s version of the mini-van, according to the car rental guy – sure…). Feeling like gangsters in our Flex and new team warmups, we rolled up to the tournament and again beat the bottom three teams in the league and this time came out with a 0-0 tie against PEI. We almost had the same score against SMU and had been in control of the ball for a greater portion of the game when they were able to score within the last 5-10 minutes of the game, resulting in a 1-0 loss. This put us into third place in the league going into the playoffs.
The playoff weekend was held in Halifax with Saturday games at SMU and Sunday at Dal. Saturday consisted of round robin play in two brackets which decided who would play in the semifinals and the consolation/5th place game the next day. We were put in a bracket with SMU and StFX, and decided our game plan would be to beat them both such that SMU and PEI would have to play each other in the other semifinal game while we would have an easier road to the championship presumably against UNB.
Unfortunately all did not go according to plan and we lost to SMU (although in the game we scored our first goal against them of the season) which put us in the semifinal on Sunday morning against PEI. On Sunday WE SHOWED UP TO PLAY and took down PEI 3-0 on our home field to send us to (as my sister Maureen put it) da ‘ship: that would be the championship game against SMU in the early afternoon on Sunday. In between, StFX beat Acadia in the 5th place game and PEI beat out UNB for 3rd place, as expected.
In the championship game against SMU, we tied in regulation, tied in two periods of sudden-death overtime, and went to a shoot out. The current rules for a field hockey shootout involve 5 players from each team taking turns going up against the opposing goalie, in which they start at the 23 meter line and have 8 seconds to dribble the ball in and take a shot. The players can play any rebounds off the goalie or goalposts until the 8 seconds runs out. There is supposed to be a timekeeper not facing the play to keep track of the 8 seconds and immediately blow the whistle when the 8 seconds elapses while the referees keep track of any fouls and determine if the ball crosses the goal line before the whistle blows. For the first player, our goalie had a nice save on a shot by from a SMU girl after which the timekeeper, facing the referees and the play, tried to signal that time was out while she picked up her whistle from the clipboard she was holding to blow it. In the meantime the SMU player was able to get the rebound and put it past our goalie. While we tried to protest to call back the goal or at least re-do the shoot out for that player, the referees shooed off our captains, counted the goal and continued the play, after correcting the positioning of the timekeeper. Two more SMU players scored and three of our girls scored (I was the alternate for the shoot out so did not get to shoot in this one, too bad! they could have used me!!), putting the score at 3-3 after the first round. We then went into a sudden death round of the shootout during which one of the SMU players scored, giving them the win and the league championship title. A video of the shootout later showed that the first SMU player was given a whopping 11 seconds to score and the opposing team’s coach even admitted later (after some drinking at the bar) that “it was only slightly more than 8 seconds” – so she even knew it was more than 8! We tried to protest afterwards as well but failed on a technicality in the CIS rules that states a formal protest must be made in writing with a paid deposit within 15 minutes of the end of the game. This would have been very inconvenient anyway as we were hosting the trophy presentation ceremony and a league banquet and league awards at our school immediately after the conclusion of the game. So anyway, SMU got to go on to Ontario for the next round of playoffs the following weekend rather than us, which led to a frustrating end to the season despite our excellent play on the last day of our league games. For me, it wasn’t quite as disappointing because there’s always the possibility of next year, and hey, I thought I was done with my collegiate athletics career back at Duke in 2005 when I had to deal with losing in our Final Four NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse game to UVA who we had previously beat two times (one of which was to win the ACC Championship). But I did feel bad for the girls who were finishing school this year and wouldn’t have a chance to compete anymore. Guess they’ll just have to look into going back to school like me!
We now have pickup scrimmages/practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that are optional but that is the only field hockey for the whole week, which has freed up a lot of my time, leaving me to wonder what to do with myself now!!!