RICHMOND, Va. – In sports, it's known as "The Big Mo". Momentum is an element that can control a half, a game, and a season.
For VCU's field hockey team, it appears "The Big Mo" is on their side going into Colonial Athletic Association play with a record of 5-3. The Rams will open the conference slate on Friday night at the University of Delaware.
Looking back at this season so far, the Rams' wave of momentum has had plenty of riders.
Playing Beyond Their Years
"I have been more pleasantly surprised than anything with the ability of our younger players to adapt to the collegiate game. Typically, it takes good players a good full season to get used to the style and speed," reflected Head Coach Kelly McQuade.
The Field Hockey team has played seven freshmen so far, including the reigning CAA Rookie of the Week, Emilie Soares. The freshman from Santa Clara, California is fresh off her hat trick in VCU's win over the University of Vermont on Sunday.
"Steph has been doing a terrific job. When you see freshmen in the backfield, it can be a little bit nerve racking sometimes. But she's really held her own along with Rymme van Dessel."
van Dessels Continue Their Legacy
Twin sisters Marle and Flore van Dessel (Oisterwijk, The Netherlands) have provided vocal leadership on the field, and they've also led by example. According to Coach McQuade, the team's two seniors have to represent what VCU Field Hockey is all about.
"As a coach, to have watched them develop over these past four years has been really rewarding. They have put in so much time, energy, blood, sweat and tears behind creating this program. They've helped us as a coaching staff to get this team back to a competitive and winning team. Their on-field leadership is obviously phenomenal. They both have the ability to take the momentum of the game and take it in their own hands."
No moment can exemplify the latter for this season better than Flore van Dessel's (right) game winner on penalty strokes against the University of Richmond.
The CAA Can Play
While the "big-time" conferences tend to get the notoriety for competitiveness, the CAA has established it as one of the premiere conferences for field hockey. The most recent poll released by WomensFieldHockey.com ranked four CAA teams in the top 20, including VCU. Coach McQuade is very familiar with just how tough conference play will be for the Rams.
"It's definitely a challenge. I think behind the ACC, we might be the second or third most challenging conference in field hockey, so it's tough. Going into CAA play, it can really be anyone's game. It's a very emotional type of league, and any game that we play goes beyond players on the field. You want it so much more when it's against the conference players," observed McQuade.
They Say It's
Best Served Cold
The Rams have suffered serious heartbreak at the hands of their CAA foes. VCU lost four overtime conference games last season alone. For the returning players, the hunger for revenge and CAA success is there and Coach McQuade knows it.
"The motivation is there. We just have to put it all together."