Women's field hockey primer 2016/17: Assume nothing

While currently holding the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship title, the UBC women’s field hockey team is set for yet another competitive season.

Their previous season ended with a celebration, but none of the success came easily. A season full of nail-biting score lines shows that the team’s success was definitely a hard-earned one. Despite three straight losses to the University of Victoria Vikes, the Thunderbirds found their form and gained momentum just in time for the nationals. After earning a spot at the nationals, the women’s field hockey team ended up winning a record fifth straight and 17th overall national title last season.

Following a successful season, not even the national champions can escape facing challenges for the upcoming season. For the 2016-17 season, there are three visible challenges that the ’Birds have — the departure of key players, getting back in competitive shape and forming chemistry as a new team.

In any sports team, there will be players coming in and going out each year. For UBC’s women’s field hockey team, there were departures last season as well — most notably Katrina Davis, who was one of the captains of the team. Head coach Robin D’Abreo stated that the loss of players like Davis “will have a huge impact on our team … she will be missed.”

Besides the national champion quality players remaining on the roster, D’Abreo said, “we added a bunch of new and exciting players to our mix this year.” He also stated that there will be four of the new players on the roster this year.

When asked about difficulties during the summer, D’Abreo answered, “summer is always challenging for a university program.” During summer months, the team has a lot more flexibility in terms of commitment and “the cost of that is obviously contact time with the athletes and contact time as a group,” said D’Abreo.

However, with the majority of the roster being players from last season, the team should be able to find their top form very quickly.

This season, an entertaining player to watch would be Hannah Haughn. She is the reigning national championship MVP and is entering her fifth year in the program. As the team has many young players, Haughn’s experience as a veteran will be a big asset for them.

For anyone who followed the women’s field hockey team last season, it is very clear that the Thunderbird's biggest rivals would be the Vikes — a team also in the Canada West division. The ’Birds suffered three straight losses to the Vikes in their first three games during the 2015 season. The head-to-head record for the two teams is well in favour of the Vikes as well.

However, in two of their three most recent meetings, the Thunderbirds came out victorious — the most recent being the national finals. The momentum the team has against the Vikes means that it will likely bring better results compared to last season.

Following a slippery start to last year’s campaign, the team’s keyword was “belief”. It is how they made it all the way to the national championships. Now being one of the biggest teams in the league and with the high expectations for this season, the team’s strategy is to prepare as hard as any other season and “assume nothing.”

“As we get going [in the season], we take feedback from those opportunities, and continue to reinvest and improve,” said D’Abreo.

With a strong squad, the Thunderbirds have the potential to finish atop the Canada West standings and contend for yet another national title.