As Seniors Ride Off Into the Sunset, Field Hockey Program Remains in Capable Hands

By: Kyle Smith

Another one bites the dust. This past weekend Bloomsburg University won its third straight NCAA Division II National Championship, and its sixth in the past seven years.  No matter how you define a dynasty, it seems impossible that Coach Jan Hutchinson and the BUFH program does not qualify every year.

This has its perks of course, but in collegiate athletics players come and go. Heading into the 2009 season Bloomsburg loses six seniors with three national championships each under their belts.

How will the program survive, and can the upcoming senior class repeat again and give themselves four straight championships?

The obvious loss this season is leading scorer, Jamie Vanartsdalen.  Vanartsdalen stepped onto the field her freshman year as a walk-on, and envisioned being cut. Four years later she stands atop Division II field hockey players as the leading scorer in both points (298) and goals (120).  She ranks fifth in NCAA points regardless of division.  Her 58 career assists puts her in second place on the all-time Division II list just one away from tying the record.

These kinds of stats make her one of the most feared and highly respected players in the history of NCAA field hockey.

Looking at her output offensively however does not begin to describe the loss the program will suffer in the fall. Fellow teammates will readily tell anyone who asks that Jamie’s biggest contribution to team has been through leadership, dedication, selflessness, and hard work.  Those are things that can not be reflected in a stat book at the end of the season.  These are the things that the team will need to replace moving forward.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how much I will miss every single one of those seniors,” Junior Chelsea Due said, “but all I can think is that experience is something you gain by just playing, and I don’t have any doubts in the girls to step up.”

The seniors on the 2008 team made up over half of the starting line-up, and replacing them will cause vast changes in the make-up of BUFH. These changes must be dealt with early and efficiently for the success to continue.

“It will be difficult at first, but I am sure we will be alright for next year. Our team has a lot of talented players,” Maggey Bloskey said.

The goals lost by the six seniors this year account for a total of 64 goals out of the 161 scored as a team this year. This means the returning underclassmen combined this season for 97 goals. So even without the contributions of the senior class, they outscore their opponents 97-20.  The scoring will be easy to come by with returners such as Bloskey who was tied for second on the team with 21 goals this season, Due who scored 13 goals and added seven assists, Ashley Miller and Amanda Riley who each found the back of the net 12 times this year, Brieann Wolfe who scored 11 goals, and Erin Hench who added nine for the Huskies this season.  The leadership lost is the main focus of the Huskies this off-season.

Erin Hench, junior forward for the Huskies this season, said that “all (eight upcoming seniors) of us need to step up and be the leaders of the team.”  It will be up to players like this, along with others who have seen minimal time under the current star-powered Huskies roster to step up and take on leadership roles. Bloomsburg may also count on incoming freshman who come onto a team that will call on its underclassmen to put in quality minutes in big games.

“I think we have a deep bench, even this year and there are plenty of players that have the potential to step up and bring whatever they got to BUFH,” Due said.

While scoring and leadership are most certainly big concerns, there are plenty of other obstacles in the way for the Huskies.  One of these issues is the pressure, subconscious or conscious, of being the team now responsible for the championship  streak. The players are already determined to keep their focus on the one-day-at-a-time mentality.  “Next year when the season starts the National Championship will be old news,” said Hench. She said that the team viewed the 2007 Championship as old news at the beginning of this season and that is how they will approach the upcoming season.

As with any championship team the Bloomsburg Huskies displayed amazing chemistry this season both on and off the field.  Jamie Vanartsdalen felt the team bonded better than any of her career.

“In my opinion we never had team chemistry like this before and I believe it took us really far.”

Goalie Allison Ziants seconded the opinion saying, “ I think we’re so successful because we’re so close on and off the field.”

This presents a problem for the 2009 Huskies. The six graduating seniors will take with them a large part of that team unity and in order to continue the success into 2009 and beyond that bond will have to be repaired.

“Maggey and Chelsea have been starters for the past three years. They know the team. They know what it takes to be successful and how to bring a team together,” said forward, Samantha Kropa.

The current seniors are eager to weigh in on the future of the program while also offering advice for their former teammates.

“I think its going to take hard work, but I think they have what it takes,” senior goalkeeper, Allision Ziants said.

“They are going to have to work hard and not look back on this season and focus on what they need to do with the team they have in order to win,” said Jamie Vanartsdalen.

Jamie’s advice to the 2009 team was, “to never back down or doubt themselves because they lost seven impact players.  They all have the ability to step up and be great leaders if they want to.  Just do their best and things will fall into place because that is all anyone can ask for. Everyone believes in them because they are part of such a successful program. No matter who doubts them along the way; it doesn’t matter because they can overcome anything.”

Samantha Kropa added “I would just tell them to really take advantage of the time they have here with the team because before you know it, it’s gone.  Playing for BUFH is one of the best experiences I’ve had.  I would just tell them that there is a lot of stepping up to do and it’s going to show character in whoever does step up.  People are replaceable – It just takes hard work.”

The program will be heading into the 2009 season with its second shot at completing four NCAA Division II Championships in a row.  The first ended with the current senior class’s freshman season in a double overtime loss in the national finals.  “That year we felt so much pressure to win it all. That’s one thing BUFH will always have.  The pressure will definitely be there next year.” mentioned Kropa.

“Not many teams in the past have been able to do so and there is always a target on Bloomsburg’s back because of our history,” added Vanartsdalen.

Chelsea Due also realizes the pressure is something the team must block out. “ There is always pressure, but we just can’t think about it. We just have to focus on things we can control and that is one game at a time.”

Bloomsburg Field Hockey has their work cut out for them, coming into the 2009 season as the three-time defending champions will place an enormous target on their backs and opposing teams are already circling their match-up with the Huskies on the calendar.  Everyone wants to be the team who ruins the BU dynasty and it is up to players like Due, Hench, and Bloskey, and the rest of the roster from top to bottom to continue the tradition of the greatest field hockey team in the country.

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