Sparked By a Special Group of 10 Seniors, Hun Girls’ Lax Was Poised for a Big Spring
STICKING TOGETHER: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Allison Cowan goes after the ball in a game last spring. Senior star Cowan and her classmates were poised for a big finale before 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hun players have remained connected through Zoom and Instagram as they have worked from home. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Rachel Hickey sensed something special about her Hun School girls’ lacrosse team this spring.
“I don’t know if I have ever been part of a team where I have seen so much growth, not only physically but in terms of culture as well,” said Hun head coach Hickey.
“It was just a really wonderful feeling of how the girls were really enjoying being there. They were really enjoying each other and just working so hard. They were wanting to work hard for each other and we worked to change the culture.”
Hickey credited her senior group with taking a major role in setting that positive tone.
“A huge piece of it as well was this year I had 10 seniors so that was real special,” added Hickey, whose Class of 2020 included Emily Albanese, Sophie Bennett, Emma Caforio, Allison Cowan, Grace Davis, Rose Denommee, Ariel Gold, Samantha Gold, Julia McBryan, and Chessie Ross.
“All of the seniors were friends as well. When you have a group of leaders who are friends that in and of itself goes so far when kids want to play for each other.”
With Hickey in her second year at the helm of the program, the players had developed a greater comfort level from the start of the school year.
“Kids in high school are young and change is challenging for anyone,” said Hickey.
“It was great in the second year. They know me, they knew my style, and they knew my expectations. That makes a whole world of a difference when a 16-year-old is now more comfortable.”
The Raiders did get to go to Florida for their preseason trip and see some game action before getting called back home due to concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak.
“On our last day there, we scrimmaged a team from northern Jersey and we won something like 18-2; it was kind of bittersweet,” recalled Hickey.
“It was amazing because at that point the girls did know we weren’t going back to school until the middle of April. They had been told on Thursday that was the case and it was really neat that they got to play one scrimmage and see the results of the efforts they have put in so far. It was also kind of sad because they saw what could have been. I was so happy that we got at least one scrimmage.”
Upon returning to New Jersey and having to work from home with the schools closed, Hickey and her players have remained connected through Zoom meetings.
“We have had virtual Zoom lunches, we have done Zoom yoga together; I have challenged the girls to take this time and grow as an individual,” said Hickey.
“We have also gone on a run at the same time at 4:00 on one Friday. I told all of the girls to go for a run and take a picture of yourself and what you see. If you go with a brother or a mom take a picture together. I try to do at least something once a week with them.”
In addition, Hickey has utilized social media as another tool to provide training tips and raise spirits.
“The kids are really connected to Instagram today; I have really found that is the easiest way to connect,” said Hickey.
“I have a Hun girls’ lacrosse Instagram and almost every day I try to post something on there. Luckily there are so many other professionals and fitness gurus out there. I follow all of the best lacrosse players in the country and I post their wall ball routine or I post an-in house workout. I post motivational quotes or I post a short workout. Our school has strength and conditioning coaches so they started posting stuff as well and I re-post that.”
When the season was formally canceled, Hickey was most disappointed for her senior group.
“My heart broke for the seniors; being a competitive athlete, your senior year is irreplaceable,” said Hickey.
“There are not a lot of words you can put to it. If you have ever been in that position as a senior athlete, you know how fun it is. Now it is your turn to implement things you have learned. I feel terrible for the rest of them but you feel particularly bad for the seniors.”
When the rest of the Hun players ultimately return to the field, Hickey believes they will bring a greater sense of urgency.
“There is that quote, distance makes the heart grow fonder; that is something that a lot of these girls are going to feel,” said Hickey.
“I talk to them a lot about when you step on the field, forget about everything else in your day, this is your time to get some energy out. I am hoping that they will understand that even more. Tracey Arndt [Hun Co-Director of Athletics] and I were talking; I played lacrosse at the college level [at Rutgers] and she played field hockey at the national level for the U.S. team. She says, even for me, sometimes you don’t realize how much you loved it until it is taken away. For kids to experience this at a younger age, there are positives that can come out of it. You talk to any college athlete and they would say I would do anything to step back on the field and go to practice. This is something we can all use to motivate ourselves next year.”