Youth movement: Preview of the Vikes women’s field hockey team

Only four members of the Vikes women's hockey team in fourth and fifth years

Local talents Courtney Ellis (Claremont)

Local talents Courtney Ellis (Claremont)

In years like this, the season hinges on consistent contribution from the rookies.

There have been years when University of Victoria Vikes coach Lynne Beecroft has had more fresh faces on her team but seven is plenty, she said.

“Seven rookies (with red shirts) is a lot but we should do okay,” said the coach, now in her 28th season with the program.

It’s not the first time Beecroft’s led such a young team.

Back in 2005, the team had an astonishing 11 first-year players. But it also had Ali Lee, in her second year at the time and already a member of Canada’s national team.

Lee was instrumental in organizing that youthful group, Beecroft said, and three seasons later that team won the national championship.

“In terms of leadership this year’s team has some catching up to do but this squad will do it its own way,” Beecroft said.

The team is eager to open its home schedule having dropped the first two away games 2-0 and 3-1  to the Calgary Dinos in Calgary on Sept. 17 and 18. This weekend, the Vikes host Edmonton’s University of Alberta Pandas at 11 a.m., on UVic’s field hockey turf, Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 24 and 25).

Eleven of the Vikes’ 20-woman roster are in their first and second years, with just three fifth-years and one fourth-year. Leading the team is a trio of co-captains: forward Whitney Siegman (fourth-year) with defenders Carly Krestanovich (third-year) and Jasleen Aujla (fifth-year).

“All three are good people, hard-working and they know and think about what’s best for the team,” Beecroft said. “For me, that’s leadership.”

All-Canadian CIS defender Kyla Kirby (Lambrick Park) knows communication is key to everyone involved in the play but she doesn’t expect only the coach and captains to bark out orders.

“It’s an all-together kind of thing, not one single person, if we’re going to help each other out,” said the third year player.

Key departures from last season’s team are goal-scorers Perri Espeseth and Danielle Hennig, as well as Katie Bennett and goalie Kaitlyn Williams.

Marisa Davidson from Kelowna has been the most prominent rookie so far, scoring four goals in three games during the Vikes’ Ivy League tour of U.S. teams in August. The Vikes lost 5-1 to Yale but defeated Dartmouth 3-2 and Brown 2-0. Davidson also scored the only goal in Calgary last weekend.

Despite a lack of offence this team is gelling fast, Claremont grad Courtney Ellis said.

“We really bonded on the U.S. tour, we did well there and we’re ready to succeed in the CIS. We just need to focus.”

Rookie earns provincial honours

Injured defender Kathleen Leahy will soon make her debut. The highly-touted Oak Bay grad is a regular with the junior national team but has been sidelined since the spring with an injured knee.

Last week, Leahy joined an epic guest list at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame’s Banquet of Champions.

Leahy was awarded the Jack Farley Youth Sports Achievement award, a $2,000 post-secondary scholarship.

Her name was listed alongside 2011 inductees such as hockey players Trevor Linden, Roberto Luongo and Olympic snowboard champion Maëlle Ricker.

“I’m so honoured. It’s my proudest individual achievement so far, seeing all the other athletes and meeting all those big names,” Leahy said.

Though she’s yet to play, Leahy is ready to make an impact.

“It’s exciting to play at the college level (regularly), it’s much closer to the national level.”

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