Kaitlyn Fulmore, Contributing Writer
During preseason rankings and predictions in February, VCU field hockey wasn’t on the forefront of many minds.
“We’ve always been the underdog until this season,” said head coach Stacey Bean. “And even then when we got to the A-10 tournament, I felt like we were considered the underdog for some reason.”
This spring, the Rams had a historic season. The team had an undefeated record, won the Atlantic 10 tournament championship and competed in their first-ever NCAA tournament game.
Out of all of the team’s accomplishments, junior back Janne Wetzel said the proudest moment of the season was winning the A-10 championship.
“Our goal was to obviously win A-10s and we did that coming in as an underdog,” Wetzel said. “It was just like ‘OK, we literally just showed everyone that we can do this.’”
The Rams went from competing at Richmond’s Cary Street Field to University Park’s Field Hockey Complex, playing against Bucknell in the NCAA tournament on April 30.
“I think the whole atmosphere was just different,” Wetzel said. “Being at Penn State, a huge university, knowing that you’re playing against the best 12 teams of the country was just a different feeling than all the games we had before.”
The Rams lost 2-1 against Bucknell in double overtime. Junior back Litiana Field scored the lone goal off a penalty corner in the first half.
“I’m a big believer of luck,” Wetzel said. “The ball was on the goal line like five times and we just did not get it in the cage. I think we just missed a necessary piece of luck that day that we had this season.”
Despite VCU outshooting the opponent 17-7, the Bisons got the deciding goal on a penalty corner in the last 20 seconds of the game.
“Sometimes in this sport you can out-stat a team, you can outshoot a team, you can do a lot of things right and still lose,” Bean said. “That’s the beauty of sport. That’s why we all love to compete — no one game is like another game.”
Despite the loss, the team is still satisfied with how the season went — especially with a new A-10 champion title.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” associate head coach Kayla May said. “I’m glad they were able to witness and feel the reward of all the hard work they put in since August.”
Along with their successful season, the Rams also got more recognition in the A-10 with multiple players winning awards: Wetzel was named A-10 Defensive Player of the Year and freshman midfielder Bridget McCormick was named A-10 Rookie of the Year.
“It was nice for us as a staff to see that recognition,” said Bean, who was named A-10 Coach of the Year.
The team has a quick turnaround with their next season starting this fall. The coaches plan to use the success of this past season to motivate players.
“We’re using this as fuel,” May said. “I’m already counting down the days — about 14 and a half weeks until preseason.”
Bean and her team are hopeful for the return of a more regular season in the fall with more opponents in conference games.
“I have a really good feeling for next season,” Wetzel said. “I think we’re on a roll right now. As long as everyone puts their work in the same way they did this year, we have a good chance to be at the championships next year again.”