Friday, September 5, 2008

Do you think we can Fly?

By Lauren Biggers
Field Hockey vs. Georgetown, VCU

As I turned onto Baker Drive Saturday afternoon, I remembered. I love this time of year.

The beginning of the summer is nice, to be sure, as we in the sports world get to flirt with the 40-hour (ish) work week. But after getting caught up on life, it’s time to get back to the business of getting ready for the busyness.

Students are back on campus (no, we don’t get the summers off, too), the Wildcat Den is open (!), and preseason conditioning is on. Two and three-a-day practices, early-morning lifting and running, all in the name of playing and, hopefully, of winning.

Saturday I watched as the f
ootball team loaded the buses for UNC Pembroke, fielded an optimistic call from head women’s cross country coach Jen Straub, and readied to watch the field hockey team in action, and felt it. Fall is in the air.

On my morning run, an old song came on my iPod, Limp Bizkit’s “My Generation,” and while the lyrics are far from child-friendly, they are appropriately angry for the trail. (And less you fear, mine is the Wal-mart version. I'm not that angry.)

The song wonders, taunts really on the last hill, “Do you think we can fly?”

Ah there's the rub. That’s what is so special about the fall. After all the recruits arrive safely, all the playbooks are delivered, memorized, inhaled, after all the team meals and socials, you finally get to put it all together and see if you can fly.

And if one pack (did you know, by the way, Wildcats are solitary creatures?) soared above the rest this weekend, it was the Wildcat field hockey team, who posted a pair of wins over
Georgetown – the lone victor on ‘Cats vs. Hoyas day – and VCU. (Rumor has placed Muggsy Bouges in attendance on Friday night, meaning someone more famous than Stephen ("Can I get a still one?") Curry was in the stands. In disclaimer, I said rumor, and my investigative journalism skills consisted of asking, “Really?” a few times to a few different people).

Leading the way was the Wildcats’ newest international sensation (ahem, good marketing) rookie
Kathelijn (Kate) van der Ven.

With the team graduating a lot of scoring, including all-time leading scorer and NorPac Player of the Year
Kayli Maxwell, Kate is expected to contribute heavily and immediately for the ‘Cats. And so far, she has not disappointed, scoring a pair of goals and an assist on a team-leading 13 shots.

After the team’s 4-2 win against VCU Saturday afternoon, she wonders into my office for an “interview,” along with teammates and classmates
Hannah Lawrence and Meg Jarrell. I like when freshmen first experience the idea of sports information. It is to them, like most, a foreign affair.

I roll out my standard response to the standard, “So what do you do?” question, and after explaining the different roles that
assistant SID Matt Harris, this year’s field hockey contact, and I play, she turns to Matt. “Ohhhh, so you are the guy on the microphone?”

It’s an admirable start. He is, he admits, and she fires back, “It was much better today.” Sidebar: I think I’m going to enjoy her sarcasm.

It is quite simply the job of sports information to tell the student-athletes’ stories, and to do so in a most compelling manner.

Kate’s story begins with the purchase of a book of the top 300 Divison I Field Hockey programs in the United States and ends like so many at Davidson, where she found her desired mix of athletics and academics.

Standing 1.7 meters-tall (translation per ask.com: 5’6) and hailing from the Netherlands, she had a pair of older sisters study in the States and dreamed of doing the same. An accomplished field hockey player, she took official visits to Davidson, Georgetown and William & Mary, and settled on the Wildcats.

She hasn’t gotten to try the chicken parm in Commons yet, and says she doesn’t have time for much beyond playing and studying, but along with Hannah and Meg, seems at home in her new home.

“Today, we were actually really a team,” she says of Saturday’s win. “We started to connect better. And we actually scored.”

Only time will tell if these Wildcats can fly.

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