Confidence, determination and hard work paid off for Villa Duchesne’s field hockey team as it won a second successive state championship this fall.
Taryn Tkachuk scored on an assist from Sophia Schlattman on a corner several minutes in the start of the second half, and the team hung on to win 1-0 vs. Mary Institute Country Day in the Midwest Field Hockey championship game Nov. 3 at SportPort in Maryland Heights.
From the first day of the preseason to the final game, “we have been working so hard to get back to where we were last year. That was our goal, and we knew we could accomplish it,” said Villa’s Brooke Behan, a senior.
The Saints lost several strong seniors from the previous year’s championship team, Behan said, so they had to make up for those spots. “We came back stronger than ever,” she said. “We pushed harder than ever. We always had a mindset of ‘grit,’ which is our team motto.”
Players sought to stay low to play good defense and counter-attack by pushing the ball up to the opposing team’s side “to make things happen,” Behan said.
The team relied on mental toughness during the season, she explained. “We realized how important it is to stay calm and stay focused and realize how good we really are rather than on things that may make us nervous or stressed,” she said.
In the championship game especially, Behan said, it was “really important to keep calm and collected to receive (passes) well and get passes off and not make any silly mistakes that cause issues on defense.”
Senior Liz Pelligreen reflected on earning the corner that led to the goal, noting that with the score tied at 0-0 she wanted to do “whatever it takes to get us the ball.”
Senior Hope Washburn played in goal the first half and freshman Claire Douglass took over in the second half. Douglass, who is used to playing in the second half, said that it was nerve-wracking toward the end, although “that was the greatest moment of my life so far. It was insane,” she said.
She credited the defense, especially for preserving the win when MICDS had two corners with no time left on the clock.
Coach Kate Graft said Villa first won the conference championship this season, a difficult task because of the talented opponents. She praised MICDS and the other teams Villa defeated on the road to the title — Rockwood Summit, Edwardsville and Kirkwood.
MICDS “is so skilled, they’re phenomenal. We fought hard and were able to knock one in. Sometimes that’s just how it goes, one team wins and one team loses,” Graft said.
The Saints had great leadership and “a never-die attitude,” the coach said. “They work so hard together. It’s a lot of heart and grit. From the top to the bottom everybody contributed.”
After a lengthy celebration that included fans singing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Graft gathered her players in a circle and they prayed a Hail Mary. She later explained that “our Catholic faith is important to us.”
Behan noted that the players know God is part of the game, “and we have to focus on that too. Faith is a big part of our life.”
Pelligreen said prayers before games calm the team, “and we feel like we are a community when we do it together.”
In the semifinal game, Villa Duchesne defeated Kirkwood 2-0 on goals from Schlattman and Tkachuk. MICDS made the finals after defeating Cor Jesu Academy 4-2. Taylor Etling and Ava Fendler scored for Cor Jesu, which lost to MICDS in the semifinals last year also.
Villa Duchesne has won the Midwest field hockey championship 10 times. Last year, the Saints and MICDS fought hard to a 1-1 tie through two overtimes. Villa Duchesne scored in the second overtime, but referees ruled that the goal occurred after time expired. The game went to shootouts and Villa Duchesne scored twice in five tries to seal the win.
A group of parents and others at Villa Duchesne High School come together for prayer before some of the field hockey games. The intention is to pray for the players and sportsmanship, said Heidi Touchette, a teacher at Villa and parent of a field hockey player. This is the parent prayer for game day:
Dear Lord God,
We come together in your name to thank you for all the gifts you have given our daughters. Help them to enter into this game with love, wisdom, and strength in their hearts. We pray that they would look to You in awe and wisdom. May they put into practice all that they have learned in their training and bring to mind all the skills and planning from their preparation times. We ask that you make them as one — one in rhythm, one in heart, as they each play their part together to get the job done. Lead them today, come bring out the best in each player we have, to respond to each moment of play. Come give them your strength, in attack and defense, for with you there is nothing to fear. May each of them be aware of your goodness in their lives, and may this goodness pour out of them as witnesses to your endless grace. You Lord are their inspiration, their teacher, and their protector. Our trust in in you today and always. Amen