Hun Field Hockey Forged Bonds, Made Progress, Sees 2020 Season as a Success Despite 1-6 Record
KEEPING UP WITH JONES: Hun School field hockey player Ashley Jones controls the ball in a game this fall. Junior standout Jones stepped up on offense this fall as Hun went 1-6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
It was a classic 2020 scenario for Tracey Arndt and her Hun School field hockey team.
With the team’s season finale at Moorestown Friends slated for November 6, Hun head coach Arndt got a phone call the day before the game advising her that it was being canceled.
Displaying the flexibility that has become habit this year, Arndt reached out to find another opponent for the game and found a partner in the Princeton Day School squad.
“I have a ton of respect for Heather (PDS head coach Heather Farlow), her team, and her program so I threw an SOS out there and asked if there is any chance if you would be willing to host us,” said Arndt. “They were so gracious in letting us come over.”
With the teams having split their previous two meetings, the rubber match proved to be a thriller as PDS prevailed 2-1 in overtime.
Despite the result, Arndt had no qualms with how her players competed in the finale.
“That game was amazing,” said Arndt, who got a goal in the contest from senior stalwart Allison Rho on an assist by promising freshman Ava Olender.
“I was making sure that everybody played and got that experience. Besides the loss, it was an amazing way to end when the alternative was no game at all.”
While Hun finished the fall at 1-6, Arndt believes that the record doesn’t give the full picture of what the program accomplished in 2020.
“Certainly the record doesn’t reflect a successful season but with all things considered, it was a success for many reasons,” said Arndt, a former Penn State field hockey star and U.S. national team member.
“As I get older, you learn that so much of this game is about the overall experience. All of our games were closer than they had been last year when it was like 5-0, 3-0. In that regard, I thought we got better as a team. We had a wide range of levels that were able to contribute, that was really good.”
Most importantly, the team forged deep bonds as they worked through the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“We have been together, although separate, for a long time,” said Arndt.
“In the spring, it was being sad together, being there for each other and supporting each other as we lost spring seasons and were wondering what was going to happen. We had really brave conversations this summer regarding all of the things that were going on so that was amazing.”
Arndt credited her group of seniors, Sydney Cobb, Kayla Hampton, Elizabeth Ji, Rosie Martinez, Aimee Millington, Renee Nearing, and Rho, with playing a big part in creating that supportive environment.
“It is a great group of young women, they are more to me than high school kids,” said Arndt.
“They all have their unique talents, both on and off the field. All of their personalities come together. They really hold true all of the values that are important to our team and to Hun in that they are extremely hardworking, extremely kind. They support everybody on and off the field and they just really love each other. We always talk about leading from wherever you are. Some led by being on the field, some were leaders through their communication. We had others that were leading from the bench. I was able to communicate to the team through them to see what was needed and what was not. This is year two for us all together and they welcomed me with open arms last year.”
That class is leaving a legacy for the program’s returning players.
“I don’t like to say goodbye to the seniors but I have another group of juniors who are the same way,” said Arndt, whose Class of 2022 includes Ashley Jones, Olivia Gall, Nicki Schaefer, Lexi Thomas, Nora Shea, Aletheia Watts, and Lynssi Italia.
“I think we are turning a corner. Our goalie Lexi Thomas showed a lot of improvement so that was really great. We had the addition of three sophomores who ended up playing a lot for us in Abby O’Brien, Mallory Smith, and Mia Chiodo. It is a nice core.”
One of the nicest moments of the fall for the squad came in their final training session.
“Usually on the last day of practice we let the seniors run the practice, do all of the drills, recruit teams and try to make it a really special day,” said Arndt.
“I had my camera out and I am taking pictures and the seniors are embracing sophomores who have just become great friends in the course of a couple of months. Girls are legitimately crying because they didn’t want it to end. There was so much laughter. In a world where everything was going wrong, that day felt so right. It made me feel that we were more successful than the scoreboard would indicate.”
On the whole, Arndt felt that going ahead with the season and persevering through the ups and downs was definitely the right thing to do.
“I think there were eight or nine freshmen who had never really met each other before and within a couple of months’ time they had all of these friends,” said Arndt.
“We felt it was very important for the physical, mental and social well-being to play safely if we could. I am so thankful for the Hun community and the support group that allowed us to do that. It really took a village. It was an opportunity for the girls. If you aren’t a part of something, you might not get to meet the other freshmen. We didn’t have a preseason like we had before. As coaching staff, we had to really try to be deliberate, intentional and safe with whatever type of connection and team building we tried to do. The girls were great with that.”