Morgan Novak before a game earlier this season. Photo/ Multimedia Editor Dyone Payne.

As the seniors of the Rowan field hockey program are approaching their final regular-season game as a Prof, unsettling excitement, nerves and overwhelming emotions will undoubtedly make their appearances, distracting them from reflecting on and appreciating the moment as they must take care of business on the field first. 

But once they grasp the moment, the impact that senior captains Morgan Novak, Casey Wagner and Bridget Boyle have contributed will not be overlooked, but instead appreciated by their coaches and teammates. 

This team was considered Head Coach Michelle Andre’s first “true recruiting class,” with only three remaining from initially 11 freshmen within their class. Andre immediately realized how talented and special this group was. 

Andre demonstrated faith in the young group and handed Wagner and Boyle an opportunity to play an extended amount of time at such an early stage.  

By collegiate-athletic standards, not many freshmen are mentally prepared or physically ready to perform to their coach’s expectations. 

However, for Boyle and Wagner that simply was not an issue.  

Since the beginning of their freshman years in 2016, Boyle and Wagner have started every single game to date, a quite impressive total amount of 76 games.  

Both Boyle and Wagner quickly established a trusting and reliable relationship with their head coach that allowed them to play with added confidence. 

“They were so consistent and easy to coach, and when they came in [the program] they already had a maturity about them,” Andre said. “They were steady right from the beginning, every run, every practice, every drill, you always knew you were getting the best out of them.” 

Boyle, a current senior, valued the moments representing the team and playing for her head coach. 

“It’s been an honor being able to start every game, being there for my team, play for my team all these years, and just gaining the trust from my coach and give Michelle the results she wants,” Boyle said. 

However, in senior Novak’s case, she had to wait for her turn. By learning and observing previous goalkeepers in her first two years, Novak gained experience that immediately rewarded her. 

Given a starting goalkeeping position in her junior season, she quickly played a pivotal role in the team’s undefeated regular season that landed a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title and a Final Four bid in her first year as a starter. 

The amount of time certain players wait for their opportunity was also a lesson Novak learned and passed down to the younger players of the team. 

“They truly recognize the hard work and diligence what it means to be a team player, and realize they need everybody, not just the starting eleven,” Andre said. “In Mo Novak’s case, she had a great goalie in front of her and she had to wait her turn. She took advantage of that opportunity and that’s a lesson for the younger players.”  

Now as captains, all three individuals have soaked in the experience they learned from previous players and coaches and have willingly passed down their knowledge to the younger players within the program. 

“The coaches have helped me learn you have to take one game at a time, you cannot look into the future … the goal should be winning the first game and every game after that. That’s what I try to instill in the younger players,” Wagner said.

As the program has improved over the past four years, the standards have also been held higher, along with expectations for the team. 

“After the 2018 season, we just demand excellence,” Novak said. “Last year, we brought the standards up and there’s no way we can’t go back. We must win NJACs and get into NCAA [tournaments] every year.” 

Along with the on-field success, all three seniors have also been recognized as Rowan Scholar-Athletes. All three have also previously been named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) National Academic Squad. 

Time management and discipline were the most important factors for their success within the books, in which they credit the regular season for their satisfactory performance in their academics. 

“I just know that I have a game the next day I’m traveling to, so I need to get my work beforehand. I always had my best grades during the fall season of hockey,” Boyle said. 

When asked what their most memorable moments as a Prof were, all mentioned the unforgettable 2018 season. 

“Definitely last season. Last season was huge, and something I’ll always remember no matter what happens this season. I will always remember being at the Final Four last year,” Wagner said. 

As the seniors say their final goodbyes to Rowan field hockey — as Andre jokingly hopes, it’ll be in a month when they are competing for a national title — their leadership, humility and passion will unquestionably be missed. 

“Their personalities, their play, the way they are as people, their humor. Just everything about them [will be missed],” Andre said. 

The group has certainly left their influence on the team that will only move the program in the right direction and lead them to further prominence.

For comments/questions about this story, email sports@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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