There will be two new teams in the hunt for the 2016 Colorado state field hockey championship: the Liberty Lancers and the Arapahoe Warriors.
“To add two programs in one year is phenomenal,” said Liberty head coach Michelle Amon.
With the new additions, there are now 15 field hockey programs in the state.
“(Field) hockey is basically isolated on the east coast and California. In between, there’s not much,” Amon said. “So, for it to be out here it’s just incredibly big for our sport in general because it’s moving across the country.”
The sport has been popular on both coasts, but, like lacrosse prior to the past five years or so, it has struggled to gain traction in between. Amon has experienced the growth of the sport first hand and loves being in the middle of it.
“I’m coming from Kentucky where it has taken about 25 years for us to get where we’re at, because we didn’t have very many programs as well,” Amon said.
Amon has been playing and coaching field hockey for 14 years and played collegiately at the University of Louisville.
“It’s definitely a part of who I am,” Amon said.
As for the players that will be taking the field for Liberty, they consist of a variety of multiple sport athletes.
“I have a couple soccer players, a couple swimmers, and then most are lacrosse,” Amon said. “I have probably two or three girls who have played before.”
Arapahoe had an impressive turnout for their tryouts with a total of 62 girls showing out for a spot on the new team.
“The sport provides new opportunities for girls in the fall season and we are seeing a great response by the numbers of girls who are trying out for the teams,” said CHSAA assistant commissioner Bethany Brookens, who oversees the sport. “I am hoping that the participation numbers continue to increase with the addition of these teams, and ultimately, we would love to get more schools offering programs.”
A massive learning curve is to be expected, but the girls of the Liberty field hockey team seem to be chugging along with more excitement than frustration.
“They’re picking up the skills pretty well – they’re excited to be playing a new game,” Amon said. “It’s not really frustration, it’s more anxiety because there is so much to learn before we start playing.
“It’s excitement, there’s not really frustration because they’re just happy to be on the field and have a team.”
Amon ran clinics in the spring and summer, but for most of the team their experience of the game ends there. The athleticism of her players is huge in their ability to pick up the game.
“I was pleasantly surprised because we have a lot to learn in a short amount of time. I have a lot of athletes so I got lucky there,” Amon said.” Some of the girls have grown very quickly. It’s pretty great to see how quickly they’re picking it up because it’s not a very easy sport to pick up right away.”
Amon spoke on the surrounding community and its efforts giving credit to both the resources around the school as well as the people.
“The community has been working many years to get this game growing here, and I’m super excited to be a part of it, and I hope that it continues to grow,” Amon said. “But it will take time.”
One of the resources Amon named is the Olympic committee being in the area. She mentioned that the team has been watching the Olympics together and getting immersed in the game.
“It’s actually really fortunate that the Olympics are right now as we’re starting because the girls are getting exposed without ever knowing what it was before,” Amon said.
The U.S. national team made it to the quarterfinals, so the success brought even more excitement to the girls.
Looking towards the season and the expectations from the new team, Amon did not shy away.
“I’m very competitive,” Amon said. “I would like to have huge expectations.”
A few of the older girls on the team have stepped up as leaders with that same mentality.
Mindful of the future of the program, Amon wants to keep the sport trending upwards.
“The biggest thing is getting the younger kids excited to come up and build our program,” Amon said. “Keep that excitement, keep that love of the game happening and passing it down so that we can continue to grow.”
“We are really excited about the growth of high school field hockey, and I see the addition of two new schools a direct reflection of hard work by the coaches, players, parents, officials, and entire field hockey community in general,” Brookens said.
Field Hockey preview
Defending state champion: Colorado Academy
Preseason No. 1: Colorado Academy
Returning All-State athletes: Taylor Hantman (Sr.) Cherry Creek, Emily Munn (Sr.) Palmer Ridge, Lindsey Reich (Sr.) Regis Jesuit, Nellie Turnage (Sr.) Colorado Academy
Regular season begins: Aug. 25
Quarterfinals: Completed by Oct. 22
Semifinals: Oct. 25, All-City Stadium
State final: Oct. 27 at 7 p.m., All-City Stadium