As you unpack and try to get back into a school frame of mind, imagine the poor athletes who ended their summers over two weeks ago and have been working double sessions ever since. Not your idea of a good time, huh?
Well, shed no tears for the Harvard women's field hockey team. The squad spent its preseason touring Ireland, sightseeing and playing field hockey against Irish club teams.
The trip started on Sept. 1 when the 16 players, newlywed Coach Edie MacAusland Mabrey and new Assistant Coach Brooke Watson flew into Shannon. After a day of rest, the team began a hectic schedule of traveling, afternoon practices, and night games. The first stop was Cork, and from there they traveled to Dublin for a few days. A three-day stint in Belfast followed, then on to Causeway and back home.
Mabrey has been working for this trip ever since she began coaching at Harvard three years ago. The team has been raising funds for the trip over several seasons by selling "Impale Yale" hats and holding dances. Additional contributions from the Friends of Harvard field hockey, Radcliffe, and the players themselves turned Mabrey's dream into a reality.
The matches and itinerary for the tour were arranged through Lenny McCaigue, a colleague of Mabrey's at the national field hockey camp. She chose Ireland over other locations because, as she put it. "It was different. Most teams go to England and not many members of the Harvard team have been to Ireland."
Returning to Cambridge on Sept. 13, the players began four days of intensive double-session workouts, but the trip did cause them to miss a lot of the usual preseason conditioning. However, Mabrey feels that the benefits of the trip outweigh the losses.
"We're giving up a lot of technical and conditioning work," she explained before the tour. "But it's more important to get the game experience. I plan on treating each contest as a game and getting the kids match-tough. I think we will come away with a real sense of team unity being so far away from Harvard."
Maturity and team unity will be the keys if the squad, which is made up mostly of sophomores, is going to have a successful campaign this fall.
Defensively, the stickwomen look very solid Junior Juliet Lamont is coming off a good season, and should she have any difficulties, backup Katie Williams is very solid. With the loss of Sara LeBlond to graduation, either Co-Captain Maureen Finn or senior Beth Mullen will have to assume leadership roles as the rest of the defense is made up of second-year players.
On offense, the team is hoping to develop a more potent attack. Co-Captain Kate Martin, last year's leading scorer, had a very productive summer playing on the National A-level team.
"Kate played well this summer," Mabrey said. "She became a total team player. She doesn't score as much, but she sets people up beautifully."
Those who will benefit from Martin's passes in front of the net will be sophomores Ellen O'Neil and Andy Mainelli, along with junior Lili Pew, all of whom made it to the National B-level team at the national field hockey camp.
After last year's disappointing fifth-place finish in the Ivy League, Mabrey is hoping to finish in the top three. As always, the Crimson's toughest competition should come from Yale, Penn and Princeton. However, if Harvard can come up with a few new offensive tricks and more cohesive play in general, the Crimson should be near the top of the league.
The tour of Ireland should provide the team with the confidence and togetherness it will need to be successful. Besides, who can't use a little bit of Irish luck?