The West Milford High School have been unwavering not only against their opponents on the field, but in their dedication to one another throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leading the way for the Highlanders both on and off the field are the three seniors captains: Amanda Finke, Amanda Gerold and Darianne Perez.
‘Democracy within the team’
“The field hockey team does a team vote in which all athletes and coaches have a say in which athletes are named captains,’’ West Milford head coach Krista Provost said. “This is something that I have always done and I feel as though it is important to promote democracy within the team and give all players a say in this big team decision. The good news is that each season the athletes I feel would make strong captains are typically voted in by the team, confirming that what I see in the captains is also seen by their peers.
“Amanda Finke’s been a varsity athlete since her sophomore year, a natural leader who truly understands where the coaching staff is looking to take the program.
Amanda Gerold is two-year varsity athlete and this kid just gets it and has a special way of motivating her peers and getting them to perform in all conditions. She prepared a meal plan for the athletes over the summer, helping the younger girls learn the power of using food as fuel for their bodies in order to increase their performance on the field.
What’s impressive about Darianne is the fact that this is her first year on the varsity team as a senior and our starting goal keeper. She activates her teammates on game day and brings them into games feeling confident with her behind them calling out numbers to mark and defend and in all situations she will be there working hard keeping the ball out of the cage.’’
Improvements have been vast and noticeable by the captains, according to Provost.
“The captains’ confidence within themselves as individual players has been amazing to see as the season developed,’’ Provost said. “I always look forward to seeing how my senior athletes perform, because something kicks in when they realize ‘this is it!’ And that is exactly what I have seen with my three captains and my other senior athlete, Riley Lane.
“They enter games with that do-or-die attitude and it has been contagious to my younger athletes. Along with their confidence, I noticed they are starting to see things more as the coaches are seeing things unfold on and off the field.’’
All three captains are well rounded student athletes.
“Amanda Finke is (at) the top of her class (No. 3) and was recently named NJ News12 Scholar Athlete and was on TV a few weeks ago for her outstanding academic and athletic highlights,’’ Provost said. “Being a triple-sport varsity athlete - bowling, golf and field hockey - Finke has worked hard in all three sports and is a top competitor. Amanda Gerold is also a three-sport varsity athlete (basketball, softball, and FH) and does well in school to match her athletic abilities. Darianne Perez plays lacrosse as well as field hockey.’’
Perez, Gerold and Finke are also come to the aid of their teammates on a consistent basis.
“I can think of an example that happened this past week at practice,’’ Provost said. “Amanda Gerold noticed one of our younger athletes having issues fine tuning her drive and perfecting her big hits. Amanda Gerold pulled her to the side and worked with her and has continued to help her during any down time at practice.
“Amanda Finke has done similar things and recently I saw her providing helpful tips to get her forwards performing where they need to be.
“In addition to these examples, the captains are the last players to leave on game days and practice days. It is known that coaches wait until all athletes get picked up, but the captains took it upon themselves and stay with their teammates-and coaches, too. After games the captains will meet with other girls and talk in the parking lot - masked and socially distant - and share stories from the games, highlights and lowlights and strategizing ideas for the next day. This is impressive.’’
‘Release the hounds’
In games played through Nov. 4, the Highlanders have an 8-4 record.
“My offensive frontline has worked extremely hard this season, as Sofia Marotta (junior) has earned 14 goals, Meagan Van Kirk (sophomore) has earned nine goals, and Kayla Kealy (junior) has earned two goals and seven assists,’’ Provost said. “These girls work well together to get the job done and are my leading offensive players.
“Defensively, we are stacked as the team often jokes ‘release the hounds’ with their aggression and energy out on the field,” the coach added. Along with Perez and Gerold, Erin Harvey and Riley Lane have done great things this season. We are looking to get a top seed in the (NJSIAA Sectional) Tournament, either one or two, and I know this is because our team focuses on offensive and defensive skills each day at practice and then apply those skills on game day.
“We have a team of athletes who work well together and enjoy their time together when they leave the field. They are a close group and it shows on the field. This is something I am always proud of as a coach, and excited knowing that the athletes who come through the West Milford field hockey program leave us ready to tackle the real world.
“This has been a great season so far, and even though this is a difficult time with COVID, these athletes come to practice with such a positive attitude and mindset,’’ Provost said. “I feel like they better appreciate one another and their time with the team, knowing that at any moment things can be shut down.’’