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  • The Chesapeake field hockey program was back to the grind this August, convening for 6:00am practices as they prepare to defend their 3A state crown.
    Photo by Colin Murphy
    The Chesapeake field hockey program was back to the grind this August, convening for 6:00am practices as they prepare to defend their 3A state crown.

Checking In With The Champs: Chesapeake Field Hockey Girls Prepare For New Challenges

Colin Murphy
View Bio
August 21, 2017

Maryland field hockey teams hoping to see Chesapeake suffer a steep drop-off after capturing the program’s first state championship last fall are going to be left wanting.

The Cougars are back on campus this August preparing for the season, and the young and hungry reigning 3A champs are all business about their goals for the year.

“Our returners, we know what to expect, so we came out all summer and trained together,” said senior defender Logan Beal. “We’re just keeping it going, keeping the momentum to keep our program really good, and we’re hoping to win another state.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Chesapeake field hockey preseason practice

The Cougars will be well equipped in their pursuit as the team returns 13 players from last year’s 3A state championship team, and the roster is stocked with youth without any expected dip in ability. Beal, Alexis Arruda, Riley Sullivan, Bridgette Tayman and goalkeeper Alexis Wade are the team’s five seniors, while juniors Rachel Fleig, Leah Evans, Hannah McKeon, Mason Frectel, Tatum Schatt and Eryn Beal; sophomores Eve Vickery and Shelby Bennoit; and freshmen Georgia Spangler and Madison Hoyer round out the varsity’s key cogs. Fleig, McKeon and Eryn Beal were the three goal-scorers from last November’s 3-1 state-final victory over Westminster, and all are juniors. Fleig and Vickery were selected as AAU Junior Olympians who traveled to compete in Detroit, Michigan this summer.

Amazingly, the program has only 34 girls across both varsity and JV and even took a few cuts from volleyball and girls soccer to fill out the numbers, but fifth-year head coach Joan Johnson does not see a shallow player pool as reason for concern.

Instead, she sees superior fitness and a craving for excellence.

“We condition. We run,” said Johnson as the Cougars legged out the final moments of a preseason practice. “It’s a lot. You can see. They’re tired and hot. They work hard. … There’s a commercial that asks what the hardest part about winning a state championship is, and it’s being prepared to do it again, and I think that speaks volumes to this team. There’s nothing else they should accept. You’ve already set the bar. You can’t go any lower. You should have nothing but that in your mind.”

The team’s offseason work started with players-only practices in June, in which the seniors organized mile tests, sprints and drills to show the younger girls the ropes and keep the collective fitness level sharp. Said Beal, “We planned it all ourselves, got everyone’s number and got all the girls out. We had the juniors running the summer league games and telling [the younger girls] what they needed to do for sprints, and then we started training the freshmen with drills and everything, getting their stick skills up. We taught them a bunch of stuff, which is good because they’re already looking better than before.”

The Cougars’ offseason preparation should pay dividends when the program takes on the new challenge of entering the county’s A tier, which means they trade games against lower-tier county opponents such as Meade and Glen Burnie for more competitive games against top-tier Howard County opponents such as Glenelg, Marriott’s Ridge and Mount Hebron, all of whom are 3A teams who Chesapeake could see in the playoffs.

Add to that Chesapeake’s September home tournament — in which they welcome Severna Park, Patuxent and Manchester Valley, three state semifinalists — as well as out-of conference matchups with Archbishop Spalding, Delaware state champion Delmar, perennial Delaware power Cape Henlopen and of course the county gauntlet of Severna Park, South River, Arundel and Broadneck, and Chesapeake has a brutal schedule stacked with tough opponents.

“Does somebody have a tougher schedule than us?” asked Johnson, mulling the question. “I don’t know. I don’t shy away from playing the better teams.”

Vickery, a junior Olympian at 15, said simply, “It’s always going to be rough playing harder teams, but you’re only going to get better from it.”

Fleig, an all-county and all-metro player, is looking forward to the grueling schedule, as well as the chance to double-up on the Cougars’ unprecedented and ongoing run of success.

“I’m excited for it,” Fleig said. “I think the whole team is. It’s going to help our team out, and it’s going to help us push each other to the max of what we can do, so we can win another state title.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Chesapeake field hockey preseason practice



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