From left, members of the 2014 club field hockey squad at Marquette Catholic High School are, front row, Alyssa Greenwell, Megan Wittich, Hope Hawkins, Lauren Godfrey, Danielle Folkerts, Hailey Ewing and Margaret Sommerhof; middle row, Grace Schwarte, Hannah Schulz, Melissa Lurkins, Amber Robinson, Emma Taylor, Alex Nagy, Sabrina Tran, Audrey Zigrang and Addy Fleming; back row, assistant coach Stephanie Rice, Rene Sanders, Merric Meehan Lily Kostecki, Kailey Beucker, Shelby Roth, Bailey Taylor, Megan Bunce, Megan McClard, Keelie Stork and head coach Sara Ulrich.
Sara Ulrich enjoyed playing field hockey at Edwardsville High School, which has featured the girls’ sport since the 1970s.
Now, the sixth-year Marquette Catholic High director of athletics is attempting to bring that joy to the Explorers. They’ll strive to field varsity and junior varsity squads in the fall of 2015, after having a club team this past season.
“I honestly think we can do it,” Ulrich said about having two teams. “I’m excited about it and so are the girls.”
She will serve as the team’s coach. Ulrich, 31, played field hockey at EHS before graduating in 2001. She then played collegiate field hockey at William Woods in Fulton, Mo. Stephanie Rice is the assistant coach.
Ulrich added: “We had 29 players come out this season and 22 of them were freshmen and sophomores. That was great to see. We were expecting 10 to 15 players.”
The Explorers had club matches with Edwardsville and Brentwood, plus an intrasquad match. They expect to play home games next fall at Milton Field off Milton Road.
“We are going to try and play 12 to 18 games,” Ulrich said. “But because we will be a new team next year, we won’t play everybody in St. Louis and I don’t think we will compete in the playoffs. We might do that in 2016.”
There are several conferences in St. Louis that will provide quality competition. Edwardsville, for example, participates in an eight-team league that includes Ladue, Lafayette, Kirkwood, Summit, University City, Webster and Rockwood Marquette. At season’s end, the teams battle in the Midwest Field Hockey Tournament, also in St. Louis.
The Tigers have had a long run of successful field hockey teams. They won a state title in 1978 and finished second on three other occasions.
Illinois has its own 21-team association, but all of the teams are from Chicagoland. And the group isn’t affiliated with the Illinois High School Association. The Explorers won’t be playing any of those squads. The only Illinois team they will face is Edwardsville.
Ulrich estimated the start-up cost of the program at about $8,000. However, after the initial expenditures, she figured it’ll be $2,000 to $2,500 per year to maintain the program. Each team competes with 11 players.
“It’s a stick and ball on grass,” Ulrich said of the sport. “Field hockey is a mix between hockey and soccer or like hockey on grass.”
She also serves as the school’s cross country coach. Ulrich sought to add field hockey coaching to her resume since it’s a sport she was eager to incorporate into the Explorers’ activities.
“I’ve been trying to get it at Marquette and asking about it for a few years,” she said. “What helped was that last year a group of girls made a power point with the administration about adding the sport. It was really student-driven.”
Margaret Sommerhoff, Danielle Folkerts and Madi Connors got the ball rolling, Ulrich said, and school officials supported them in adding it.
“We had a lot of field hockey players that are participating in other sports, whether it’s soccer or basketball,” Ulrich said. Volleyball, golf and cross country are other girls’ fall sports.
Next up is a busy summer for field hockey and preparation to go live next fall.
“We’re going to a summer camp at Northwestern (in Evanston) and we’re looking forward to it,” Ulrich said.
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