Three months ago, Rowan University’s field hockey team wanted two things: first, win the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title, and second, claiming a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III championship.
Unfortunately, their NJAC title hopes ended with a conference-final defeat against the number one ranked team in the nation, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). And then, their national title aspirations ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat against the University of Lynchburg.
In light of what the Profs considered a “revenge game” against the team that handed them their first loss earlier in the season, with a 4-3 outcome, and now ending their season, the Brown and Gold handled the pressure and expectations exceedingly well in a season where belief and faith guided the team’s destiny with all the adversity they encountered.
The sudden injuries were a form of adversity that significantly impacted the chances of the team. Two starters were lost due to season-ending injuries, including Senior Captain Bridget Boyle. Then, the unexpected absence of Molly Gorczyca, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) before the season, forced a rebuild within the midfield and defense compartment.
“We didn’t expect all the injuries that had happened,” said sophomore Kriistina Castagnola. “Two starters [having season-ending injuries], then you have Molly, she gets sick last spring and you don’t expect that happening. That’s three starters out … this season overall, after all the adversity thrown at us, we ended up okay.”
Despite any challenges the team faced, Castagnola, along with Head Coach Michelle Andre, expressed their pride in the team’s effort and performances displayed every game and practice.
“I am really proud of them,” Andre said. “They could have stopped at any moment, but they are competitors and they kept fighting. After a loss, it is easy to stop but they just kept going, got ourselves into a conference final and a sweet-sixteen appearance. Can’t be disappointed.”
Castagnola mentioned the younger core of the team, admitting she was impressed with the way underclassmen managed difficult circumstances.
“I’m actually very proud of all the underclassmen, just [them] stepping up,” Castagnola said. “Just having kids step up that weren’t expected initially to come off the bench and come in. Instead, they came in they made a difference. We had people coming off the bench scoring goals and become difference-makers in the game.”
Every season serves as a learning experience for a program and for Andre, patience will be an ingredient for consistent success in the upcoming years. When asked upon what this team taught her over the course of the season, Andre quickly stated “patience.”
“Everybody develops on their own time, but they will get there. We need to give them the basic things, in order for them to be successful.”
In hopes of returning with a full, healthy squad for next season, Andre knows exactly the improvements that the team must focus on during the offseason to reach and exceed their expectations.
“We’re going to get quicker,” Andre said. “I’d like us to get quicker with our stick work and be more dynamic in our movements and we have players that can do that. That’s what our whole spring season we’ll do with such a young team. They’ll get with that one-on-one intention.”
Castagnola will use her second year on campus as a refresher and certainly make many appearances at the Rowan Recreation Center gym, improving certain areas of her game, hitting the school’s weight room while maintaining her fitness.
“For myself, definitely refine certain skills I already have and get a few new ones, just so I can have a couple of new tricks up my sleeve,” Castagnola said. “Definitely keep working on my fitness, staying in shape and getting in shape even better than I was this year.”
The end of the 2019 season provided the Profs an opportunity to reflect on their time together over the course of the five months: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears every game, every practice for their fallen teammates, remembering the laughing instances, the friendships that were created, and the notable moments the team produce.
These are revealing situations for a team, and as for the Profs, with a young, talented squad, the future is very bright with the best yet to come.
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