Real Talent Gets Back in the Game

Sam Chambers
The "plenty twenty" varsity has Maverick Field Hockey on a roll and self-starting winning traditions.

The "plenty twenty" varsity has Maverick Field Hockey on a roll and self-starting winning traditions.


After the glory days of St. John’s Varsity Field Hockey, the years from 1968-1981 when they took 8 championships, it felt like the program was spinning its wheels.  Now they’re spinning to win.  With a revolving door of incoming talent, and a continuity of coaches, the program is back at the top.  The last time they were in D2 was in 2001.  Two years ago they not only won the championship, they also re-started the trend of advancing to the winner’s bracket, an expectation-destination at conference.  The rewards of success at the high school level also transfer to the collegiate arena where four alumni are on current rosters.  Since 2005 St. John’s has fielded at least one NCAA D1 player.  


Like great St. John’s teams of the past, the 2010 Maverick Varsity is made up of veterans: 13 seniors, 3 juniors, and 4 sophomores--the “plenty twenty.”  Only a quarter of the girls are new to the team, and most are familiar with the traditions that have less to do with field hockey skills, and more to do with creating a chemistry of success. 


At the beginning of the season all but one of the 20 knew what to expect when a watermelon Wednesday or a Topo Chico Thursday showed up on the practice plan.  They all wrapped their stick with red and black duct tape at the early season stick party, and they assume that dads will injure themselves in the father-daughter game, while the moms will hold their own in the annual alumni game.  The squad knows what to expect with the fanfare, and four of the veteran seniors have a new appreciation of the field hockey experience, after unexpected circumstances threatened to take them out of the game.


Mary Harrison (’10) and Catherine Dawson (’10) are on their first teams since last winter.  Along with Emma Erwin (’10), all three seniors suffered knee injuries which required extensive recovery work, while Daphne Desjardins (’10), on her first team in Texas, is still saying “Dutch on three” when breaking the huddle.   


Having been in Tulsa for the past six years, Desjardins is using athletics to stay focused and be connected to her new environment.  Wearing #24, her jersey number at Holland Hall, she is fitting in quickly as a Maverick.  “Field hockey is the best part of my transition,” said Desjardins, who joined the team in July at the Stanford camp and then in pre-season practices in August.  “Once school started, the coaches offered to let me leave practice early to work on my academics, but I flat out told them, no way.”


As much as Daphne relishes her role on a new team, the players and coaches reciprocate that point of view. “It is great to have a new coach come into a program and examine what you do with an outside eye, but it is even more useful (and exceptionally rare) to get a talented varsity player from another program,” said Head Coach Craig Chambers (’81).


“It is nice to have a new person with new ideas,” said Harrison.  “After returning from my injury I am more aware of what other people bring to the table, and I can see how field hockey gave Daphne a niche.  I also like her short corner line-up.”


Like Desjardins, Harrison has a new feeling for her old number. “It is great to be back on the field and have tangible goals to strive for, such as winning a game,” said Harrison, whose Mavs stand at 9-1 going into the Episcopal game tonight. “I took my fitness level for granted before my injury.  I was in poor shape and had to turn the rehab into a game of its own.  I stayed motivated by keeping ahead of the recovery timeline, and when it was time to compete again, I put the knee behind me.” 


For Erwin, the injury is well in the past, but she still thinks about it when things are going tough. “The injury to my knee makes me not sweat the small stuff, even a sprained ankle,” said Erwin.  “I’m also glad to be able to run in competition instead of just running to train in the recovery process.”


Dawson also appreciates where she is now.  “Going through the rehab work is really long and arduous, and makes you appreciate the time you get to spend with the team in season,” said Catherine.  “When I was rehabbing my knee I remember looking at teams on the field and I felt jealous not being out there.” 


Dawson shares in the joy of being inside the lines.  “I'd argue that one reason she is so good is the care and commitment she exhibits for her teammates.  She makes them stronger and better with her attitude, compassion, and work ethic,” said Chambers


 “In order to get back to the competitive level, you have to trust that you have done enough, and across the board, all three have accomplished that goal of getting back,” said Mike Kleinstub, Assistant Athletic Trainer.


Bringing fresh perspective and a deepened will to succeed to the field, all four of these competitors are playing in the moment.  Their ability to leave the past on the bench gives them new perspective on this team’s winning traditions.


Mavs on three!



Sam Chambers- Athletic News