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Field hockey at St. Joseph’s had stellar season

The Hawks wrapped up an incredible run and believe it's only the beginning.

Cassidy Atchison of St. Joseph's field hockey
Cassidy Atchison of St. Joseph's field hockeyRead moreSJU Athletics

The St. Joseph’s field hockey team notched another Atlantic 10 championship for the Hawks by fighting through disruption and distractions.

Sixty percent of the players on the team had never been through a fall season before this year. Now, 100% of them have a championship ring. Head coach Lynn Farquhar was proud of how inexperience did not hinder the team’s success this season. Farquhar also was named co-coach of the year, the fifth time she has had her name on the conference award.

“They played some fantastic hockey,” said Farquhar. “If you’re looking at them going into our NCAA game, I do not believe they were nervous. And just to watch that spirit and that energy and how much the group has grown on the field, off the field, really believing in what they could do, I definitely would call that a success.”

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The Hawks lost to Liberty, 2-0, on Nov. 12 in the first round of the NCAA tournament to end their season. Looking back on all of it, graduate student Nicholl Fenton believed that her fifth year on Hawk Hill brought some unique challenges.

“We’ve had probably the hardest schedule, hardest ever since I’ve been here, so, probably the hardest schedule in history,” said Fenton. “That didn’t faze anyone and we just all got together and set goals beginning the season, and we’ve achieved quite a few.”

One of those achievements was the highest national ranking in St. Joe’s field hockey history. The Hawks soared as high as eighth in the country after big wins against North Carolina and Rutgers. For junior Katy Benton, this was one of the highlights the season.

“After the beginning of the season, when we played Penn State and Maryland, and those were other two big teams that we played just before, and just barely losing to them. Coming back and beating both UNC and Rutgers was huge for us,” said Benton. “It really let us know that we’re in this.”

Usually a new team needs time to grow and develop. Not this team, which went 16-5 overall and 6-1 in conference play.

In her first fall season with the team, Manu Ghigliotti was named A-10 offensive player of the year and scored a hat trick in the conference tournament against Richmond.

“I didn’t expect it,” said Ghigliotti. “It’s something else for the team and I think that is the important thing. We all get recognized with some things, so I think that makes us really powerful.”

Ghigliotti was right. The Hawks dominated the A-10 season awards. Along with her, Benton, Cassidy Atchison, and Freke van Tilburg were named first- team all-A-10. Freshman Sol Borenzstein was A-10 rookie of the year and second-team all-A-10 with junior Anna Miller.

Finally, Fenton and Atchison grabbed all-academic honors and Aiden Drabick made the all-rookie team.

The Atlantic 10 championship game against VCU meant revenge for the Hawks, after a loss in the coronavirus-shortened spring season. Miller was the star in the game, netting the only goal of the contest.

“Losing last year, it wasn’t fun. It was definitely a rough [spring season] having games being postponed and everything. So, I think coming back and making a statement this year [was huge,] we’re back,” said Miller.

Leadership was another big component to the Hawks’ success this season. The leadership from the upperclassmen really helped Borenzstein fit in and perform at a high level.

Having [Benton,] [Atchison,] and Fenton made my freshman year so easy because they are always there to help you,” said Borenzstein. “In the case of [Benton], we played together in the middle and she’s always talking to me and giving me directions and that’s really helpful. I think she’s going to be a good leader next year.”

Benton and Miller’s graduating class will be seniors and the veterans of the 2022 season. But they are not satisfied with only an Atlantic 10 trophy and looking to lead an already established group further in the NCAA tournament next year.

“We come in every year with the same goals of a regular season title, then making it to the conference tournament, and winning that,” said Benton. “And then we always want to make it past the first round [of the NCAA tournament]. So, that’ll continue to be our goal.”

But before the Hawks get another crack at the NCAAs, they have team practices and training in the spring. Farquhar believes that is the time that establishes leaders and the team’s identity.

“What’s interesting is sometimes it’s not those who actually step up to speak, it’s those who maybe listen or have the actions that speak so much stronger. So, it’s a really neat time and an opportunity for everybody to evolve,” said Farquhar. “You have amazing leaders that graduated and [then the young players] figure it out. They always do.”

For next fall, the majority of the team will be coming back. Farquhar is confident that they can build on the success of the 2021 season and look to advance in the NCAA tournament.

“This group could continue to write some really cool history for our Hawk program. Now it’s a matter of what they want, and how much do they want to invest to create that,” said Farquhar.