The Girls Varsity Field Hockey Team earned the #2 seed in the 2021 New England Class C Girls Field Hockey Championships. The team will play Proctor Academy, the #7 seed, today at 3 p.m. at Deerfield Academy. To view the livestream of today’s quarterfinal game, click here.
This is the first time the team has advanced to the NEPSAC Girls Field Hockey Championships since 2015. “They’re really fun to watch,” said Athletic Director Mike Marich P'23 '24. “They’re fun to be around. Everyone contributes in their own way. They’re working really hard and getting good results.”
The team played their last regular season game on Saturday, beating Canterbury 2-1 at Canterbury Day. They were one of three Highlander teams that beat the Saints that day, each earning the school a point toward the Canterbury-Gunn Cup. Varsity Field Hockey ended the season with a record of 13-3 and an 81 percent win average. “We have some really experienced players but we also very quickly found ourselves. Obviously, that sounds cliché, but we found ourselves. When we beat Kent for the first time in a long time, there were a lot of conversations from the coaches about confidence,” said Ashley LeBlanc, who is in her first year as Varsity Head Coach for Girls Field Hockey at The Frederick Gunn School and her second year as Dean of Students.
The win against Kent came early in the season, as the team took on some tough opponents. "They put it to use in their games and practices," Marich said, adding, "They're a really fast, disciplined team." More wins followed in quick succession against Ethel Walker, Berkshire School, Suffield Academy and St. Luke's School, as LeBlanc and Assistant Coach Jen Badger continued to instill confidence in the Highlanders. “There became a moment, really halfway through the season, where they started to believe more and more. As our confidence grew, our skills grew, and they continued to trust the game plan and build on the game play. It’s amazing how we are working in cohesion and synergy as a team,” LeBlanc said.
Each athlete knows their roles, and when they need to step up for the team, she said. Of the 15 team members, nine are seniors. They are supported by a handful of student-athletes who were not only new to playing at the varsity level, but had never played field hockey before. “Jordan Hopping ’24 never put on the pads before and is dedicated and committed and just absolutely flourished. Goalie Poppy Kellogg ’25, freshman forward Beatrice Flynn ’24, Jenna Hunt ’22, backfield – all just really good student-athletes, really complimenting a diversely talented team,” LeBlanc said.
A Connecticut native, LeBlanc is a graduate of Simsbury High School, where she played field hockey and ice hockey. She was a four-year starter on the Varsity Field Hockey Team at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and a three-time NFHCA All-American. In her senior year, she was team captain, First Team All-American, and played on the Northeast-10 All-Tournament Team and ECAC Division II All-Star Team. LeBlanc also coached Division II field hockey at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts for a year after college.
“My approach to coaching is first and foremost to develop the most confident and strong female student-athlete, one that they have a voice, an identify and purpose and extending that lesson then onto the field. I want them to take risks and be comfortably uncomfortable. We’re pushing ourselves and know the moments where we need to gather as a team, whether that’s team-building or really dissecting a tactical part of the game. That’s where this team has done a really good job,” she said.
Asked how she was feeling heading into today’s quarterfinal game, LeBlanc said: “I’m ecstatic. I’m proud of them. We started to talk about New Englands about halfway through the season as in, ‘We’re on track.’ Two-thirds of the way through we were in the Top 3,” she said. Part of her approach was to instill humility as well as confidence and make sure each member of the team was prepared mentally, emotionally and physically to bring their best to the game.
“It’s really exciting that this is where the program can be,” she said. “We’re really excited about the development of the JV program and just continued field hockey education and commitment. I think that’s where there’s a lot of heart, a lot of pride. At the Play4theCure game, there was a lot of energy and excitement. I’m just so thrilled, so proud and so excited about where we’ve already gotten to, and where we can go.”
The semifinals are scheduled for this Saturday, November 20, and the finals are Sunday, November 21.