The Millersville field hockey team entered the 2014 season as the number one team in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s Division II preseason poll. So far, they are at a record of 6-0 while being 4-0 in PSAC play.
According to Millersville Field Hockey head coach Shelly Behrens, Millersville plays one the toughest schedules in Division II field hockey. Millersville’s early season victories include a 6-1 win over against Kutztown and two overtime wins against Bloomsburg and West Chester. West Chester, Bloomsburg and Shippensburg have won many national titles combined with Shippensburg being the defending champion from 2013.
Many factors have led to their recent success. The team’s training and preparation has contributed to the number one ranking being undefeated. Behrens mentioned that training the team at a high level and tempo has made a difference so far. “It feels like all the hard work we put into every practice, drill and game is worth it,” freshman Kathleen Bishop commented. “It’s a great feeling that we want to know without the dedication teamwork we put into everything.”
Behrens mentioned how time and preparation on and off the field has helped her team be successful. She emphasizes the mental, emotional components of field hockey for her players. Without those components of field hockey wallet taking care of their bodies and the social aspect, they would’ve not been winning games like they are now.
“You have to realize, these are college kids getting a degree full-time with some of them working one or two jobs besides their commitment to the sport,” Behrens commented. Teamwork has also been one of the team’s strengths. Bishop mentioned how the team’s good chemistry have also contributed a number one ranking.
“We are all about each other—play for your teammate, not yourself,” freshman Kathleen Bishop said.
Monday, Sept. 15, senior forward Katelyn Zapp was named PSAC Player of the Week. Behrens believes that Zapp scoring six goals that week including four against a conference opponent, Kutztown, helped her receive the PSAC Player of the Week.
“Even though it was Katie’s first honor, it’s still about the team,” Behrens said. “Without the team, Katie doesn’t get those honors and she knows that.” Along with Katelyn Zapp, senior goalkeeper Lauren Sotzin provides consistency in the net for the Marauders. Her current goals allowed average (GAA) is at a 0.51. She has made 20 saves this season so far, with 12 of them coming against the double overtime victory Sept. 23, against West Chester.
“I think Lauren is the smartest person on the field,” Behrens said. “She knows what her job is and embraces it. She’s clutch and comes up big for us.” Behrens also mentioned how Sotzin is very caring of her teammates along with being fierce as a goalkeeper. “When she’s goalkeeping, she is fierce as fierce can be, but she always takes care of her teammates because they come first,” Behrens said.
Even though the team has the conference player of the week and a clutch goalkeeper, they still focus on the entire team, not just those two individuals. Behrens also stated how putting the team first leads to individual success. Kathleen Bishop stated that everyone on the team is a key player because everyone has something to contribute and can step up when needed.
“I think everybody is [important], I don’t think we have three, four or five players that we focus our team around,” Behrens said. “We rely on the whole team and without everyone getting better every day, we are not to get better.”
Like how they don’t focus on a specific individual as a key player, the team feels the same way about leadership. As a point in time, all of the players on the team are the “leader.”
However, Coach Behrens puts an emphasis on fellowship than leadership. “We have kids that are willing to follow and do what we asked them to do, and do what their teammates are asking them to do,” Behrens mentioned. “I’m in charge of 28 women and every year, and we are developing these young women as great people as much as great field hockey players.”
Behrens mentions that leadership is important by nurturing the players for leadership roles for different spots on the team both on and off the field. She also stated that there is trust in the team’s leadership and fellowship and goes hand-in-hand together. “You can have the best leader but with no one following them, they’re not going anywhere,” Behrens said.
She also explained how building a team is like a car. Every part has a different function it brings in order for the court to go where it needs to go. Each player brings a specific role to the team which helps aid them in winning games and being undefeated.
“Everybody has their part to play and building the team is like a car because every day, somebody is a different part helping the vehicle to get where it needs to go,” Behrens clarified. A new “part” for the team this season is new assistant head coach Marvin Bam. Bam, a former Olympian with the South African men’s field hockey team who brings years of experience both as a player and a coach.
“He brings lots of experience to the program and he’s very focused on details and speed,” Bishop said. “He’s a great influence on the team.” Bishop stated that she wanted an assistant coach to be different from herself. She also believes that they are in a great situation of having the right person who wanted to do the job.
“I think Bam’s teaching and playing experience, in addition to his passion and love for the game and the many things him and I have similarities with, we have many differences,” Behrens commented on Bam. “He’s been a fantastic addition to the staff and I rely on him tremendously.”
When asked about expectations, Coach Behrens stated that they don’t use that word. The team has standards instead of expectations. The standards of the team are what they do physically and mentally on the field, off the field, GPA and winning a national championship.
“Everyone else can have expectations for us, but we have standards,” Behrens said. “We have very high standards for ourselves and if we don’t reach that, there are penalties.” Her description of a penalty for not meeting one of their standards means that they will look at what went wrong at that specific moment on the field and work on it.
“Our weakness is that we have such high standards for each other that sometimes we get annoyed when we don’t meet them every time,” Bishop commented.
This season, the team clearly wants to win the Division II field hockey national championship. Coach Behrens always tells her players to go out on the field to have fun and enjoy it.
Coach Behrens loves the positive direction the Millersville field hockey program is heading. She believes that all the great things like winning are getting people on campus very excited. “These kids work just as hard, and I think there’s just so much pride these women have that they do this,” Behrens said. “They want to do it well and want to represent Millersville well. We might give up some goals and might lose a couple games but you always give it your best effort. I don’t think you can ask anything more than that.”