One word guides the AU field hockey team in its quest for a Patriot League championship title this year: intention. Or rather, inTENtion. AU field hockey players and coaches have embraced the hashtag on social media as a way to announce their season goals and inspire them to victory.
“Our goal this season is to win the Patriot League championship, and if we do that it will be the program’s tenth Patriot League [championship] win, which is a huge accomplishment,” sophomore midfielder Angela Virtu said of the “inTENtion” hashtag.
After capturing the regular season and Patriot League tournament titles in 2013, the Eagles experienced an uncharacteristic season under head coach Steve Jennings last year, one in which they finished 9-9 and missed the Patriot League tournament finals. For the Eagles, their quest for a tenth Patriot League championship began far before nine freshmen joined the team in August.
“One of Steve’s quotes is ‘you win in November and December,’” Virtu said. “After our season’s over, we may get one week off, and then we start gearing up for next season. “In spring, we practice all the time, in summer we have summer workout packages. We are 365 [day] athletes.”
#inTENtion came to life during these offseason workouts as a way to establish a winning culture between the older members and the large freshmen class. Senior captain Emilie Ikeda, who helped the Eagles claim the championship title in 2013, said a key element to the team’s success is the integration of the new members of the team, both on and off the field, and helping them embrace a positive attitude for the season.
“We did a lot of work in the spring to make sure that everyone [upperclassmen] had a full grasp on the culture so that when such a large class [of freshmen] comes in, everyone is on the same page,” Ikeda said.
The Eagles welcomed nine freshmen to their roster for the 2015 season, and Virtu said uniting behind the word “intention” allows the team to stay focused, despite the large number of newcomers.
Of the nine freshmen on the roster, eight have made appearances this season, and freshman forward Rafaela Rubas currently ranks as one of the team’s top point-scorers.
“We don’t see our freshmen as freshmen, we see them as impact players, so that means you can start, we expect you to give the hundred percent you have that day,” Virtu said. “We don’t see it as a class thing. We see [freshmen] as [members of] our team.”
The Eagles emphasize high-intensity action in practice, Virtu said, to try and simulate the quick, dynamic passing style they implement in competition. Focusing on specific skills in practice and performing each drill with precision allows the team to approach games with confidence, while keeping in mind its mantra of intention.
“Intention for our team is really important because that’s how we want to take each practice,” Virtu said. “We want to practice with intention to get better and do all of our actions with intention.
In an effort to help bridge the age gap between the freshmen and the rest of his roster, Jennings took the group on a team-building trip to stress the importance of unity. He said the team worked through a ropes course together during pre-season, and the exercise helped de-emphasize the age difference between the classes.
“Things like that also help bring in people to the culture,” Jennings said. “Things like that help to bring people into the team and de-emphasize someone’s age because at the end of the day we’re all depending on each other.”
While intention and teamwork define the field hockey team’s season and guide every practice, Jennings said the entire roster, regardless of age, remains rooted in the present.
“Each game that you have to play next is the most important game,” Jennings said. “For us to get where we want to go, in the postseason, we need to have a mentality of one game at a time and never look ahead.”