Keeping Focused on Sharpening Skills, Hun Field Hockey Showed Improvement
STICKING WITH IT: Hun School field hockey player Catherine Argiriou dribbles the ball in a game this fall. Senior Argiriou provided leadership and production for Hun as it showed improvement down the stretch. After starting 0-9, the Raiders ended up with a 3-15 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
When the Hun School field hockey team started this fall by losing its first nine games, it would have been understandable if its players had simply thrown in the towel on the season.
Instead, the Raiders didn’t stop grinding, sharpening their skills and earning three wins over the last few weeks of the season.
“They kept getting better,” said Hun head coach Tracey Arndt, who was in her first season guiding the program.
“I was really proud of them that they continued to work hard no matter what with the setbacks and adversity they had.”
Displaying that progress, the Raiders gave second-seeded Lawrence a battle in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament, falling 2-0 after having lost to the Cardinals 6-0 two weeks earlier in a regular season contest.
“We didn’t put a whole half together against Lawrence the first time, our fitness level and stamina wasn’t there to last through the game,”said Arndt.
“Their effort at practice increased which allowed them to have more stamina to follow through because that was a battle the whole time.”
Hun produced a stellar effort in its home finale, edging Peddie 1-0 in overtime as senior Emma Caforio notched the winning goal on an assist by Catherine Argiriou.
“The Peddie game was great, I think it showed them that they are worthy of being on the field with some of these great teams and that their hard work has paid off,” said Arndt.
“It was extra special to do it on Senior Day. We had a senior pass to a senior who passed to a senior, who put it in. That was very cool.”
Arndt credited her seniors Gabby Samano, Emily Albanese, Caforio, and Argiriou with holding things together for the program as it dealt with change.
“All of them were helpful in the beginning, even in the spring, connecting with me and really trying to keep a lot of traditions that they really enjoyed about Hun field hockey alive and well,” said Arndt.
“They stayed super positive through the whole thing. It would have been very easy for them to get down but they stayed super supportive of me and what I was trying to accomplish. They were really a great connection between myself and the team.”
The squad’s core of returners should benefit from the example set by those seniors.
“They all have another year under their belts; a lot of them probably weren’t ready to play varsity roles or in varsity games,” said Arndt, who has a good foundation in place with junior Allison Rho, junior Renee Nearing, sophomore Nicki Schaefer, sophomore Ashley Jones, and sophomore Lexi Thomas.
“Because of our situation and injuries, many of them stepped in and said ‘I can do this, I am pretty good at this and I like it and I want to continue getting better,’ so all of those were great things to hear.”
The younger players got better in a number of ways over the course of the season.
“I think one area where they improved was their technical skills,” said Arndt.
“They got quicker with their sticks, they had better decision making. Something else that improved was just their confidence. They were afraid to fail when they were at the beginning of the season and they challenged themselves and stepped out of their comfort zones.”
For Arndt, who had guided the Princeton Day School field hockey program from 2012-14, being back on the field and molding a team was a challenge she embraced.
“There is something so rewarding about seeing the improvement and these a-ha moments that the players are having,” said Arndt.
“It is fun developing the relationships with these young females; hopefully they learned as much from me as I learned from them. The goal is to teach them more than field hockey skills, it is teaching them life skills that will allow them to grow.”
Looking ahead, Arndt, believes the program can grow into something special.
“They worked through frustration and the adversity; they learned more about themselves than they realized so that was great,” said Arndt.
“We said from the beginning that we knew we had a lot of new players and a lot of transition. We couldn’t set goals of winning this league. It was fun to see them connect. We still have a lot to work on but I am proud of the way that Hun field hockey is going.”