Shoot and score, shoot and score. This cycle repeated itself throughout the course of four games during the Episcopal Cup in Fort Worth, Texas. Each year, this tournament features episcopal schools All Saints, Parish Episcopal School of Dallas, Holland Hall, Episcopal School of Houston, and Casady School. And, each year, the Championship title is hard-earned in close games that often extend into overtime.
Last weekend, this was far from the case.
In a stunning blowout, Casady’s field hockey team left the tournament with twenty-four goals under its belt and zero goals scored against. This year, Casady’s ability to win by such a large margin proved quite impressive. To start the tournament, the team lacked leader Grace Utz (‘21), as she was completing quarantine as a result of Covid exposure. Utz, the team’s starting low-center mid, serves as a fundamental part of the defensive lineup. Despite her absence on Friday, the team produced two shut-outs against All Saints and Holland Hall, with scores of 5-0 and 2-0, respectively. The following day, Utz was finally able to join the team in competition against EHS and Parish Epsicopal: “I was definitely nervous that my skill would be down a little bit, but I was really excited, and the team was really encouraging, so it was great.” This weekend felt particularly exciting for Utz, as she had missed the team’s season opener against Holland Hall a week prior.
While Utz experienced her first games as a senior player at the Cup, three freshman athletes enjoyed their first minutes of varsity playing time: Sheridan Piercey (‘24), Alya Bakir (‘24), and Mollie Coate (‘24). All three athletes expressed that their time on the field was “nerve-racking,” but they still had a lot of fun during their first varsity travel experience. Coate, in particular, noted that although she felt anxious, the team as a whole showed her strong support which helped ease her nerves.
Part of Casady’s success can be attributed to athletes like Caroline Watkins (‘22), who made her first starting appearance against Holland Hall as a left forward. As Caroline recounted the Cup, she smiled: “It was exciting to be starting on varsity. It really encouraged me to try my hardest every second of the game.” Assigned to the essential back-post scoring position, Watkins scored on six occasions throughout the weekend. She was responsible for both goals against Holland Hall in the two-nil game. Senior Sydney Geiger (‘21) also put forth an impressive showing, with a total of five goals by the close of the weekend.
Despite Casady’s large goal count, Katherine Hawley (‘21) asserted that the weekend was not without its challenges. At the Cup, Casady faced Holland Hall for the second time, and Katherine expressed that such a rematch can be mentally tough. “It’s difficult to go into a game having already beat the team, because you don’t want to underestimate the opposition.” Evidently, Casady conquered this challenge in its defeat of the Dutch.
While athletes played on the field, managers Elliot Reiger (‘21) and Madge Lister (‘21) worked on the sidelines to make sure that the team had all the tools necessary for success, filling waters, digitally recording games, and running errands. In previous years, both Reiger and Lister have contributed to the team as players. This year, the two took on the role of manager. Madge noted, “managing has reinvigorated my love for the sport, because I get to watch the girls play, and you guys looked fantastic this weekend. Getting to still be a part of the team while getting to assume a mom-like role is very fitting for me.”
In addition to Lister’s maternal care, Coach Madison Gilbert expressed a similar fondness for the athletes. As she laughed at the thought of the girls, Gilbert said that she feels very proud of the team’s performance, not only because everyone played their best hockey, but more so because “everyone also had a lot of fun […] it definitely made it more rewarding than just getting gritty wins. We just blew our opponents out of the water, and had a lot of fun doing it.” After this weekend, Gilbert expresses hope for an undefeated season, and she feels confident that the girls will continue to play at a high level for the rest of the fall.
In the past, Casady has faced much closer games at the Episcopal Cup. Just last year, the Cyclones conceded victory to All Saints in a tight goal-differential tie-breaker. In this year’s tournament, however, Casady led the leaderboard strides ahead of all other schools. What exactly clicked for the Cyclones this weekend? An improved chemistry? A talented senior class? A new coaching style? It’s hard to assign the team’s success to one single factor, but one thing is certain: the 2020 field hockey team boasts a level of performance unlike ever before.