If the guiding spirits of highschool sports activities are competitors, fellowship and customary objective, the 2020-21 faculty 12 months introduced challenges to all of them. Close-knit groups, accustomed to the bodily camaraderie of the locker room or the huddle, needed to preserve their distance socially; coaches, used to the regular sample of practices and video games, discovered themselves canceling periods, posting exercises on-line and doing their finest to ship encouraging emails to their gamers. In some circumstances, total seasons have been referred to as off.
These disruptions hit many groups onerous, however they posed a singular frustration for these coming off breakthrough seasons the 12 months earlier than. Such was the case for the Clearview Regional High School women’ field-hockey squad in Mullica Hill, N.J. In 2019, they received a state championship, capping greater than a decade of progress beneath coach Britney Ewan, a former midfielder at Millville High School, simply 30 minutes south of Mullica Hill. When Ewan (beneath middle) took over the program in 2006, its data had been hovering round .500 lately. But 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 were very old-school,” Guth says. “Britney revamped everything: how you hit the ball, how you pass the ball, how you set up on the field and work with your teammates.”
By 2017 Ewan and Guth had led the crew to the faculty’s first field-hockey sectional title. The state championship two years later led to a Coach of the Year award for Ewan and a celebratory trip by means of city, courtesy of the native Fire Department.
Then got here 2020, an unrelenting opponent that confronted reigning highschool state champions throughout the nation. Clearview succeeded in making it by means of a lot of the season — “I always said that any day we have a stick in our hands is a good day,” Ewan says — triumphing over interruptions and accidents and Covid scares and getting all the method again to the playoffs. But in November, the sectional championship sport was canceled, and the 2020 season got here to an abrupt finish.
Nine months later, in mid-August, the crew gathered for an additional title run. It started with tryouts. The gamers appeared nervous but in addition comforted by the return of an previous routine. As the drills commenced, following a mile-long warm-up run round the discipline, the sight and sound of field-hockey balls spilling from a big cooler could possibly be taken as a hope-filled name to motion.
‘My sister was actually a senior for the 2019 team that won the state championship, so being that young and being able to watch that game, and to see how they’ve been doing the previous few years, has been superb for me.’
— Mia Clerval, Ninth Grade
At the starting 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 means that I share a common ideal with you and that, regardless of minor differences, we strive for it shoulder to shoulder, confident in one another’s good faith, trust, constancy and affection.”
Ryan Remaly and Darian DeLeo are two returning standouts who have been freshmen throughout Clearview’s title-winning 2019 season. Last 12 months, as a result of of Covid-19 security protocols, the faculty’s varsity and junior-varsity groups practiced individually, blunting the program’s camaraderie and continuity.
‘I was on J.V. freshman year, so being able to drill with the girls on varsity really helped me become a better player.’
— Ryan Remaly, 11th Grade
DeLeo provides, “It was definitely hard.” The social-distancing necessities have been irritating. “We weren’t allowed to do things together that would benefit us, like team bonding,” DeLeo says. “It makes the team so much stronger. It makes everything click.”
For some gamers, it was tough to take care of motivation throughout the pandemic. “Going into the season, it was hard to remember my love for field hockey,” Anna Bruno says. Covid upended her standard preparations, which included taking part in for her membership crew and attending university-hosted clinics. But after her teammates elected her varsity captain, a distinction usually reserved for seniors, Bruno was impressed anew. “Coming back from a state championship, we had a lot of pressure on ourselves,” she says. “So my goal was to keep things upbeat and fun.”
Among the youthful gamers who caught Ewan’s eye was a sophomore named Destiny Joseph, who performed on the junior-varsity squad final 12 months; 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 discipline hockey and be half of a championship herself.
‘I couldn’t actually hang around with associates, so I’d simply come out to the discipline and apply.’
— Destiny Joseph, 10th Grade
Dina Litovsky is a photographer based mostly in New York and a daily contributor for The Times Magazine.
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