Shari Jones was suiting up for the Maryland Terrapins and the Montgomery field hockey team, her former high school squad, was off to a rocky start.
The Cougars were 0-2-1 and struggling to find an identity without Jones – their star performer from last year’s school-record 15-win season – who now plays for one of America’s premier Division I field hockey programs.
So, head coach Tiffany Trockenbrod addressed her team – and they’ve certainly responded.
“I told them, at one point, that the biggest challenge would be learning how to come together without Shari, who we had last year and went on to play at the University of Maryland,” Trockenbrod said. “I think they really took that to heart and I feel like we’re playing more as a team.”
That team reeled of six straight wins, all by shutout, before falling last Thursday in a 1-0 nail-biter to top-notch Warren Hills (8-1). During Montgomery’s six-game winning spree, the Cougars (6-3-1) outscored their competition an astounding 21-0.
If anyone has stepped up and filled the shoes of Jones, it’s been senior Erica Hrudowsky. Last season, Hrudowsky led Montgomery in scoring, but her game worked off Jones’. This year, Hrudowsky has become more assertive and well-rounded – sacrifices made to help Montgomery crawl out of its funk and realize its new game plan.
“Last year, I really relied on Shari hitting the ball up to me and then I did whatever I had to do,” Hrudowsky said. “This year, I’ve had to play more defense than offense and I’ve had to come back a lot. And I’ve had to take more possession of the ball, which I wasn’t really used to last year.”
Hrudowsky leads the Cougars in goals (8) and assists (5), while senior Natalie Colonna has been a key cog in the turnaround with five scores on the season, and goalie Kiran Sunduram has been nearly lights out.
Adjusting to life without Jones took time, but Montgomery seems to have found itself.
“She (Jones) was a really, really big part of our team and she controlled the pace of our game,” Hrudowsky said. “It’s not the same without her, but I think everyone did a good job of taking on a new role.”
And Trockenbrod sees the difference. “In our first two losses, the kids didn’t play together – I don’t know if they knew how to at that point,” she said. “Now, I feel like we’ve started coming together.”