Indian River’s varsity field hockey team has seen its share of struggles over the past few seasons, but first-year head coach Katie Holloway and assistant coach Whitney McMillon aren’t discouraged. The attitude of the varsity team has remained at a constant, as the girls have kept their heads high, even through the toughest losses of the season, but it’s what the coaches have noticed on the junior varsity squad that may be the answer to the school’s field hockey woes in seasons to come.
“The junior varsity girls have really connected well,” said McMillon, who is an Indian River grad and a former field hockey player, herself. “They are young, so there are still some things they have to learn, but the chemistry is there. They are working together really well as a team, which is mainly why we hadn’t brought some girls up to varsity this season. We want to keep that chemistry among them going.”
That camaraderie and teamwork is exactly what Holloway is foreshadowing will be the driving force within the program as the team matures over the years, along with a tenacity that she hopes will carry over. “Watching the junior varsity girls play shows us a lot of promise for the varsity squad,” said Holloway. “These younger girls are fierce when they go out there. They have that killer instinct, and that’s the biggest difference we’re seeing between the JV and the varsity teams.” Indian River’s junior varsity team looks to round out this season this week, with a game at Lake Forest on Thursday, Nov. 3. Prior to the final regular season game on the schedule, the JV team was 3-8-3.
Holloway has over 15 years of field hockey experience, particularly as a keeper and defender, and also coached Sussex Central’s indoor team last year. “The junior varsity girls have been really working on their attack and not giving up,” said Holloway. “They clock so well together because they all came up on the same team from middle school. We’d like to have that move up to the varsity level by next year. It’s that solid core that plays with each other that we’re looking for. Everyone seems to know where everyone else is on the field, and when to get there.”
In preparation for next season, both McMillon and Holloway have been urging players to keep active and keep a stick on the ball so that skills stay sharp. “Katie’s been pushing for a drop-in clinic through the winter for the JV girls and the ones returning to varsity next year,” said McMillon. “Some of the older girls will do swimming and basketball in the winter, and in the spring, some play soccer and travel softball. Staying active, especially with field hockey, will definitely keep them ready for next season.”
“Field hockey is a tough sport for some girls to stick with because it overlaps with so many other sports,” Holloway noted. “But it’s those fundamental skills that need to stay sharp. Fortunately, a lot of the younger girls have expressed interest in playing indoor hockey.”
Pending of the number of returning players to next year’s varsity squad, Holloway said she’d have to wait and see before she knew how many junior varsity players would be taking that next step. “I’ll graduate four players this spring,” she said, “and I’ll be picking up 10 more, so we’ll have to see who comes back before we know exactly what we’re working with. But right now, the junior varsity has a solid core working, and that’s good to see.”
For the past five years, the Lady Indians have seen five new head coaches on varsity, but now with McMillon and Holloway sharing responsibilities for both squads, with intentions of returning next year, they anticipate a stronger development with the girls. “It can be tough, sometimes, to learn to play under new coaches each year,” said McMillon. “I’d love to come back with Katie next year. It’s been a great learning experience for me, and for the girls. It’s a lot of fun.”