Despite a fairly young and inexperienced roster on the Montclair State University field hockey team, the coaching staff still believed the team was talented enough to have a lot of success this season even against the juggernaut teams in the conference like Rowan University and Kean University.
Unfortunately, throughout this whole season, which started with their first two games being called off, the field hockey team could not find their stride and maintain any form of momentum. The Red Hawks finished with a 6-10 record, including a six-game losing streak to finish off the 2021 campaign.
Freshman forward Tori Sutera was one of the bright spots for the team, scoring three goals and having eight shots on goal in only her first season. She believes that having good performances and high morale coming off bad games can help this team stick together and improve going into next season.
“Our last [practice] week was so good for some reason, and it’s weird coming off of losses to have a week like this when we don’t have any more games left,” Sutera said. “So, I think we have to keep that same energy to improve during our games.”
Opponents of the Red Hawks have got off 35 more shots and 26 more shots on goal, leading to opponents beating Montclair State in goals 27 to 26. But the field hockey team this season was not all negative; there were plenty of bright spots when it came to team and individual performance as well.
Not only did Sutera have a great first season with the team, but freshman midfielder/forward Gab Maisto also started strong out of the gate, with four goals and 16 shots on goal.
Montclair State had more assists and saves than their opponents, and also had 85 fewer fouls than their opponents. The reason for Montclair State’s success on defense was in large part due to junior goalkeeper Lauren Pickul. She had another tremendous season as a goalie, collecting 101 saves in 16 starts and was an honorable mention selection in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) field hockey awards for the second straight season.
But, similar to how Giannis Antetokounmpo is the clear star of the Milwaukee Bucks, the Montclair State field hockey team has a clear star in Carlie Van Tassel. A stellar season for this sophomore forward, Van Tassel was able to bring in 12 goals, 28 shots on goal and an assist. Head coach Eileen O’Reilly describes just how key Van Tassel’s play was this season.
“[Van Tassel’s] skills were something we as a team relied on on a daily basis,” O’Reilly said. “She does a great job pushing her teammates in practice [and] she brings very strong confidence to games, which allowed her to be a scoring threat in all of our games this season.”
O’Reilly also wants to see Van Tassel expand on her leadership skills and lead her teammates even further heading into the next season.
Van Tassel helped lead her team to victories against opponents like Stevens Institute of Technology, DeSales University and a conference foe in William Patterson University. She was also recently named to the All-NJAC First Team after being named NJAC Rookie of the Year last season.
But although the field hockey team will be returning with a lot of good players heading into 2022, the team will also be losing some great senior players like Evyn Stewart, Maddie Spolarich and Zoe Musick, who helped assist with one of Maisto’s three goals in a game versus Gwynedd Mercy University earlier in the season. Musick, the senior midfielder, spoke on how connected the team is and how that helped in games and practices.
“I think the most telling thing this season was our team chemistry,” Musick said. “We had such a great group of girls from freshmen to sophomores to juniors to seniors, and I think we all worked really well together this season.”
Another crucial thing Musick mentioned that helped the team’s energy during games was having people in the stands again. In the shortened 2020 season, the home bleachers were left empty due to protocols set forth because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This season, people were filling the stands again, and to have that momentum back was nice for the field hockey team, Musick says.
“[For] every home game we had, it was awesome to see other athletes, students and parents come out and watch our games,” Musick said. “The more filled the stands were, the more that it felt like an exciting game. And as a senior, seeing that was cool because as you grow throughout the years and meet people, those connections are more meaningful.”
While this season did not end the way anyone in the women’s field hockey team wanted it to, a new resurgence of energy can already be seen within the players. Practices and workouts have started already, and a lot earlier than usual in O’Reilly’s offseason schedule. This time, O’Reilly says, one thing she is going to focus on is purpose.
“I think toward the end of the season, we lose sight of our purpose,” O’Reilly said. “So, that is something I want to put emphasis on going into next season, [in terms of] asking things like, ‘What is your purpose at practice or training off of the field?’ If we can become more rounded when it comes to our purpose, that is when we will start to see small improvements.”