EDWARDSVILLE — Move over Edwardsville, there is a new Illinois field hockey team in town — the Marquette Catholic Explorers.
Unfortunately for the Explorers, experience won out on Wednesday at the District 7 Sports Complex in Edwardsville, as the Tigers cruised to a 7-0 victory.
Marquette coach Sara Ulrich, an EHS grad and former field hockey player, wasn't too optimistic on beating her alma mater though. With inexperienced players on a burgeoning program, it was just nice to finally get to play a game on the Illinois side of the river. Wednesday was the first time the Explorers have gotten to do that with their first year varsity program.
“It's bittersweet,” Ulrich said. “I was very excited to be here to play the game obviously, but we kind of expected it to be a 7-0 game. We knew it was going to be rough coming in, but it's fun to be back on the field.
“You can just tell in the way they play that they're just so fast with their stick work and ours isn't. I hate to say it, but we look like a freshman team, which is what we are. We have seniors and juniors on the team, but it's their first year, so we're all freshman level but we're playing a full varsity schedule and we've been competitive for most of the teams.”
The loss dropped Marquette to 2-12-1 on the season, while the Tigers improved to 8-8 with the victory.
Second-year Edwardsville head coach Julia Tyler said the experience definitely made the difference Wednesday. EHS saw seven different players score goals in the win.
“Most of our girls started playing in the sixth grade, so they've been playing for a few years now and they've started playing year round also,” Tyler said. “It's experience and constant play. I was very proud of our girls today. The goals we got were placed very nicely in the net and they were where they were supposed to be.”
The Explorers found themselves in a 5-0 hole at halftime as the Tigers won the corner battle 8-0 in the first half, too.
Veronica Carrow scored the initial goal for EHS at 23:14 on an assist by Ansley Dorsey. Unassisted goals by Allie Hosto (21:59) and Annie Mulford (20:35) made it 3-0 in favor of Edwardsville.
Claire Smith scored off of a deflection from Ryley Miller's shot at 15:12 to make it 4-0. Miller garnered the assist. Then Sophia Swalley tacked on an unassisted tally at the 12:22 mark to make it 5-0 heading into the break.
Unassisted goals by Maren Hampton and Dorsey in the second half completed the 7-0 shutout.
“You learn never to give up,” Marquette junior Emma Taylor said. “We're losing 7-0 but that doesn't mean it's a complete loss. You have to take something away from it.
“We were all nervous because we knew how good they were and how we are just starting.”
Fellow junior Hannah Schulz was happy to finally see an Illinois rival after playing all Missouri games leading up to Wednesday. It may not be a rivalry yet, but that's the plan for the future.
“Definitely having a team that knows us and is kind of a rivalry, it's definitely a good experience to play them,” Schulz said.
Tyler echoed the same sentiment. Seeing another Illinois field hockey team in the metro east is exciting for her, because it shows an expansion of the sport she loves. Besides Edwardsville and Marquette all the other Illinois squads lurk in Chicagoland, far away from the metro area.
“I'm so happy to see field hockey is growing on this side of the river and other schools are looking to add it,” she said. “Marquette's doing a very good job with their program.”
The Explorers logged their first win back on Sept. 2 with a 4-3 win in overtime at Brentwood. Ulrich said it was a huge day for the program.
“It was amazing,” Ulrich said. “We went into overtime in a shootout with Brentwood and it was unbelievable. The feeling, the excitement the girls had, it was a great game. Then we beat Naperville North in the Gateway Tournament and we won that off a corner and we tied Westminster, which is a very good program.”
Now the Explorers can get hyped to end their season on another first. At 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 19 they will welcome Notre Dame to Gordon Moore Park in Alton for the program's first home game. They will play on Diamond 8.
“That's exciting,” Taylor said. “Hopefully we have more fans come out from our school. We haven't seen too many. They can come see what we do.”
Schulz added, “I'm excited for a home game. It's very nice. Having a place to call our home field is great.”