Despite loss of key players, field hockey still leads U of T athletics

On Saturday, the women’s field hockey team beat the York Lions 2–0, bringing its regular season record to 11–0–1 heading into the playoffs. Leading the team was captain and goalkeeper Kathryn Williams, who, along with Madeleine Cho, allowed only four goals this season.

“KJ is the best goalie in the country in my opinion,” said head coach John DeSouza, currently serving his eighth season as head coach. Williams trains with the national team during the varsity offseason.

Despite appearing flawless during th regular season, the Blues exhibition schedule did not reflect a high calibre of play. The team went 1–3 and allowed 13 goals in its four games against teams from Boston and Rhode Island. After returning to Canada, it competed against the Western Mustangs, winning two games, and setting the tone for the rest of the season.

DeSouza explained that the disappointing preseason came as a result of the significant amount of rookies on the team. Nevertheless, the team managed to bounce back after the losses. “The team could have folded after such a bad pre-season. The girls did the opposite and have worked very hard to be where we are at now.”

Players who were expected to play this season ended up leaving the active roster for various reasons, and many of the past few seasons’ key players graduated this past June. “With the loss of those players comes a rebuilding phase,” explained DeSouza. “This is a very coachable team with a huge upside.”

With the loss of players, everyone on the roster needed to step up to fill the empty roles, Williams explained: “Some of our rookies were given the opportunity for a starting position, and they have been working really hard to keep up.”

The team follows a rigorous training schedule — five times in three days, from Tuesday to Thursday. In addition to training and practices, the team meets for dinner and pre-game meetings on Fridays.

The team’s success may be credited to its other traditions. “Every year, our team sets goals at the beginning of the season,” said Williams. Along with high expectations of one another, each player holds themselves accountable for each of their actions.

The team will be competing in the provincial championships from October 25–27. If they play like they did last season, then they will head to the national championship, where they lose 3–0 to the UBC Thunderbirds last year at Varsity Centre.

This year the captain will have to take charge if the Blues hope to repeat last year’s successful playoff season. “The road to the banner will be through [Williams] and she is up to the challenge,” said DeSouza.

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