Field hockey’s youth movement: a rebuild for the future

Freshman forward Lonica McKinney has scored one goal this season. Photo by Wessam Hazaymeh

Nile McNair, Contributing Writer

Coming off last season’s trip to the A-10 conference tournament game, field hockey was looking to duplicate that success this season. 

However, the Rams’ roster is different from last season. VCU is much more youthful this year and has more international players. 

For example, sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Williams and freshman defender Morgan Hanley are both on the Canadian Junior Women’s national team.

The youth has shown itself so far this season, as the team finds itself at 2-5. Yet, the early struggles could benefit later on this season and in the years to come. 

Coach Stacey Bean was brought in three years ago to both rebuild and reboot the field hockey program. She is trying to do just that with the team’s eight freshmen out of 18 total players. 

“The two things we try to teach these freshmen is the speed in which they train and the mentality that everyone — regardless of their position on the field — has to attack together,” Bean said. “And everyone has to defend.”

For Bean, this wouldn’t be the first program she has turned into an habitual winner. Before coming to VCU, Bean brought success to the Saint Francis (Pa.) and Rhode Island field hockey programs. 

Bean has an idea of what changes need to be made in order to bring up the field hockey program to her liking. 

Sophomore midfielder Lynea Gregory has appeared in seven games, starting in two, this season. Photo by Wessam Hazaymeh

“This is my third rebuild of a program, so I’m very familiar with what it takes to completely flip and get the roster going where we need it to,” Bean said. 

Although the majority of VCU’s roster is freshmen, it has some veteran experience. 

Senior defender Jordan Rasure and senior midfielder Bentley Zabicki are the lone seniors on the team, and they’ve been at VCU during the full rebuilding process. That rebuild includes the aforementioned trip to the A-10 tournament championship game, in addition to a change at the head coach level. 

“I tell everyone that’s been coming in that I’m jealous of them because they’re coming in at the right time,” Zabicki said. “I think VCU is trending upward and I can only see good things from here on out.”  

When a program loses an individual talent like Emily McNamara, it is never easy to replace them. McNamara was VCU’s record holder for career goals, total points, goals in a season and points in a career. She also led the nation in goals last season with 27.

But field hockey’s eight freshmen will be the base of the team moving forward. With that foundation in place, future recruiting classes’ transitions into college volleyball will be easier. 

An A-10 regular-season championship and an A-10 tournament championship will be the goals for the field hockey team in the coming years. If VCU achieves that, it will be its first time winning a field hockey championship since joining the conference. 

“Our future is very bright because our team is so young, and we have so many girls who are starting to develop right now, and will be developing for the next four years,” freshman forward Lonica Mckinney said. “So, in four years when all of us are at that peak state, it’s going to be so good.” 

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