As senior captain Robby Rybarczyk walked up for the first stroke, the field hockey team experienced a moment of déjà vu. During the SPC finals the girls were in strokes against the same team; only this time, it was just the semifinals.
Rybarczyk made a clear shot to the back of the net. Then, a Fort Worth Country Day (FWCD) player barely squeezed the ball into the goal. The score was tied at one all.
The team was tense as they stood behind the circle, arms wrapped around each other’s backs.
With another successful stroke from senior captain Sam Night and a shutout from freshman goalie Kelsey Bing against the four remaining FWCD shooters, the Mavericks won.
“Before the strokes I was really nervous,” Bing said. “But the team was cheering me on, which made me feel a lot more relaxed and confident.”
With the FWCD Falcons out of the way, the girls were able to play a confident game against Hockaday in the finals. The Mavericks won 3-1, clenching the SPC championship title for the second year in a row.
“Winning back-to-back SPC Championships is a tremendous accomplishment fir our field hockey program and a true testament to a total team effort,” Director of Athletics Vince Arduini said. “The combination of a talented group of athletes, a very dedicated and hard working coaching staff at all levels and the outstanding work of our athletic trainers and managers made this past year truly unique.”
The coaches started this season with a challenge. Despite 16 returning players and nine seniors, the team had to adjust to a new group dynamic.
Senior Amanda Leavell joined the team after not having played since freshman year. Two freshmen, Jennifer Trieschman and Junior Olympian Bing, joined the squad, and the team had to alternate between two goalkeepers, Bing and returning sophomore Libby Manela.
This new slate of players proved successful. Leavell became one of the leading scorers for the team with 12 goals, including the breakaway shot that secured the South Zone Championship over Kinkaid. Bing and Manela became the perfect goalie duo with a total of 84 saves, or 87% of their opponent’s attempted shots, a seven-year high for SJS.
“This team made up their mind early on that they would focus not on the prize, but instead on pursuing excellence as an everyday mantra toward achieving success,” Head Field Hockey Coach Craig Chambers said. “There were hurdles as always, but they never faltered in their confidence as a team that they could maximize their potential.”
The team faced a rough patch late in the season with a three game losing streak, but the captains encouraged the players to overcome these setbacks.
“Being captain has been one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had to do,” senior Natalie Plummer said. “Lots of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure the season goes as smoothly as possible. It has given me the opportunity to test my dedication, resiliency, leadership and love for the game.”
Plummer was one of four senior captains along with Carly Gamson, Night, and Rybarczyk.
Their hard work pulled off a five game winning streak in counter games including the final counter against Kinkaid in the South Zone Championship. The Mavericks have won South Zone for the past six years.
The team scored a total of 95 goals over the season, led by Night and Rybarczyk with fourteen goals each.
“I loved watching this year’s field hockey team as they played with great heart and intensity,” Headmaster Mark Desjardins said. “They were unselfish and relentless in their drive to win back-to-back SPC titles. They are the gold standard for all other programs in the SPC, and that is a great tribute to the coaches and players.”
Despite obstacles along the way, the players yet again proved themselves as field hockey powerhouses.
“Their confidence in themselves and their belief in each other brought them to the finals and it certainly carried them through,” Chambers said. “This group justly earned their championship and had a great time doing it every step of the way.”