Despite falling to host University of Massachusetts in the A-10 Championship game, the 16th ranked University of Richmond field hockey team went 16-5 overall this season, losing only to teams ranked in the top 20 in the country.
The team was recognized by ESPN with a No. 5 play on the SportsCenter top 10, posted an undefeated home record and finished Atlantic 10 Conference play undefeated.
Sophomore Rebecca Barry has learned that to be competitive at a high level of hockey, a full calendar of extra-curricular activities isn't possible, she said. "Playing underage international hockey taught me an awful lot about having to be passionate about what it is that you do, and this team is really passionate."
Junior goalie Anna Zarkoski said: "Our team chemistry is phenomenal, really unlike other teams. We have so much to focus on without being involved in Greek activities; it doesn't bother us. For us, our team is our sisters."
The field hockey team is the only athletic team whose members are not allowed to participate in Greek life.
Taylor Deitrick, one of the eight freshmen the team gained this season, said it sometimes wasn't apparent to outsiders just how close the team was on and off the field. "Our team is such a family," Deitrick said. "The upperclassmen are so kind to us and really made the newcomers feel like a part of the team."
The team members became closer on what they called "Trophy Tuesdays," an in-season conditioning day where players were sometimes forced to physically pull each other through.
"There is always someone in your ear telling you that you can do it," Barry said, "that you can push that little bit further because when it comes down to your moment to shine in a game, will you do it?
"We are aware that we suffer every Tuesday for one another. This sort of awareness always makes me want to push on further and definitely has brought our team closer."
Barry is one of four international players on the Richmond field hockey team. Kerri McDonald and Amy Cooke are from Northern Ireland, Jessica Hollis is from Bermuda and Barry is from Ireland. "Each of these girls adds massively to our squad," Barry said. "Each of them brings something totally different, yet so vital."
Zarkoski had the opportunity to play with the U.S. National Under 21 field hockey team at the beginning of the season and said that to have success at a high level of hockey, a team really needed to work together and fight for each other. Fearless, united and uncommon are words our coaches have really stressed to us, Zarkoski said.
"My favorite game was probably the Temple game," she said. "It was a home game that we were down, but we fought back and won."
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The Spiders faced a similar predicament when they played Columbia at home, coming back from a three-goal deficit to clinch a win. "I can vividly remember looking at each girl during the half time team talk and thinking that we were going to win it; there wasn't a single doubt in my mind," Barry said.
"The Spider hockey team of 2012 is fearless, Barry said. "Our team chemistry is absolutely incredible. I have never been a part of anything like it. We are united, willing to sacrifice for one another and passionate. We have endured many lows, but far more highs. We have been resilient, and we have worked hard."
Contact reporter Lauren Shute at email@example.com
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