If the guiding spirits of highschool sports activities are competitors, fellowship and customary goal, the 2020-21 college yr introduced challenges to all of them. Shut-knit groups, accustomed to the bodily camaraderie of the locker room or the huddle, needed to hold their distance socially; coaches, used to the traditional sample of practices and video games, discovered themselves canceling periods, posting exercises on-line and doing their greatest to ship encouraging emails to their gamers. In some circumstances, complete seasons have been known as off.
These disruptions hit many groups exhausting, however they posed a novel frustration for these coming off breakthrough seasons the yr earlier than. Such was the case for the Clearview Regional Excessive College ladies’ field-hockey squad in Mullica Hill, N.J. In 2019, they received a state championship, capping greater than a decade of development underneath coach Britney Ewan, a former midfielder at Millville Excessive College, simply 30 minutes south of Mullica Hill. When Ewan (under middle) took over this system in 2006, its data had been hovering round .500 in recent times. However Ewan set to work fashioning a aggressive crew. In 2012, she employed as an assistant coach Jaclyn Guth, who had performed for Ewan. “Beforehand, we have been very old-school,” Guth says. “Britney revamped all the pieces: the way you hit the ball, the way you cross the ball, the way you arrange on the sector and work together with your teammates.”
By 2017 Ewan and Guth had led the crew to the varsity’s first field-hockey sectional title. The state championship two years later led to a Coach of the Yr award for Ewan and a celebratory journey via city, courtesy of the native Hearth Division.
Then got here 2020, an unrelenting opponent that confronted reigning highschool state champions all around the nation. Clearview succeeded in making it via a lot of the season — “I at all times mentioned that any day we have now a stick in our fingers is an effective day,” Ewan says — triumphing over interruptions and accidents and Covid scares and getting all the best way again to the playoffs. However in November, the sectional championship recreation was canceled, and the 2020 season got here to an abrupt finish.
9 months later, in mid-August, the crew gathered for one more title run. It started with tryouts. The gamers appeared nervous but additionally comforted by the return of an outdated routine. Because the drills commenced, following a mile-long warm-up run across the area, the sight and sound of field-hockey balls spilling from a big cooler might be taken as a hope-filled name to motion.
‘My sister was truly a senior for the 2019 crew that received the state championship, so being that younger and with the ability to watch that recreation, and to see how they’ve been doing the previous few years, has been superb for me.’
— Mia Clerval, Ninth Grade
Initially of each season, Coach Ewan provides her gamers a thick handout with crew guidelines and expectations, in addition to details about the recruiting course of for many who hope to play in faculty. The entrance web page features a quote attributed to the psychiatrist Karl Menninger: “Loyalty implies that I share a typical superb with you and that, no matter minor variations, we try for it shoulder to shoulder, assured in each other’s good religion, belief, fidelity and affection.”
Ryan Remaly and Darian DeLeo are two returning standouts who have been freshmen throughout Clearview’s title-winning 2019 season. Final yr, due to Covid-19 security protocols, the varsity’s varsity and junior-varsity groups practiced individually, blunting this system’s camaraderie and continuity.
DeLeo provides, “It was undoubtedly exhausting.” The social-distancing necessities have been irritating. “We weren’t allowed to do issues collectively that will profit us, like crew bonding,” DeLeo says. “It makes the crew a lot stronger. It makes all the pieces click on.”
For some gamers, it was troublesome to take care of motivation throughout the pandemic. “Going into the season, it was exhausting to recollect my love for area hockey,” Anna Bruno says. Covid upended her regular preparations, which included enjoying for her membership crew and attending university-hosted clinics. However after her teammates elected her varsity captain, a distinction sometimes reserved for seniors, Bruno was impressed anew. “Getting back from a state championship, we had numerous stress on ourselves,” she says. “So my purpose was to maintain issues upbeat and enjoyable.”
Among the many youthful gamers who caught Ewan’s eye was a sophomore named Future Joseph, who performed on the junior-varsity squad final yr; she was an admiring eighth grader when Clearview received its state title. The solitary nature of the lockdowns she skilled, Joseph says, made it clear to her how a lot she needed to excel at area hockey and be a part of a championship herself.
Dina Litovsky is a photographer primarily based in New York and an everyday contributor for The Instances Journal.