When the Champlain Valley Union High School field hockey team opened preseason camp, it looked a little different than the group that walked off the field after the Division I state championship last year.
Those Redhawks were the first No. 7 seed to advance to the Division I finals since 1992 and, though they lost to South Burlington, head coach Kate McDonald was proud of the effort the squad put forth.
“We felt good at the end of that final,” McDonald said. “Of course we would have loved the result to be different, but we felt like it was a great effort. It makes them hungry for this season.”
McDonald and the Redhawks are ready to turn the page.
With only four starters remaining, CVU will practically put a whole new team take the field on Thursday when it opens the season in Colchester.
“We’re new — 10 new players,” McDonald said. “That’s a big adjustment; we’re still working out that communication.”
The four experienced players will be relied upon heavily, and none more than Evangeline Dunphy. The goalie was a wall in the playoffs for Champlain Valley, allowing a mere three goals total in four contests, including two in the title game.
“She’s exceptional,” McDonald said of her star keeper. “We certainly wouldn’t have had that success without Evangeline. I’m really glad we don’t have to play against her.”
A four-year varsity starter, Dunphy is the backbone of the team, providing strong goaltending and senior leadership.
“Goalie is an impossible job, with the big outfit and they are coming for you and it’s hard to be mobile,” McDonald said. “There is so much ownership when you are in that position. She takes her job so seriously. She’s independent and self directed. She knows what she needs to do to prepare. The best goalies have always led themselves and she is an example of that.”
Dunphy is focused on getting the team on the right track to start the season, not looking ahead toward the end of the regular season and playoffs.
“In the two scrimmages we have tried to emphasize, if you play hard and work as a team, you will find success,” Dunphy said. “I think at the beginning of the season it will be difficult because we only have four returning players but we have a lot of talent in this group. Hopefully after the first few games we will have a season that will set us up for the postseason.”
Dunphy will be even more important this season as the Redhawks have a new defense in front of the senior captain.
“Emily (O’Brien) and Evangeline are the only returning defenders, so that’s rebuilding,” McDonald said. “We definitely feel like, even with the success we had, it’s almost a restart.”
The other player that emerged in the late last season was forward Katie Arms, who scored all but one of the Redhawks’ goals in the playoffs.
“I knew Katie was fast, she certainly is just an athlete,” McDonald said “I think success breeds confidence and so she had a breakout season.”
Arms will be counted on to take charge on the forward line, and her success in the playoffs last year has seemingly helped with that.
“She’s taken on so much more of a leadership role; she certainly leads by example,” McDonald said.
“I can already tell she is a lot more confident,” Dunphy said. “She is taking chances that she wouldn’t have taken at the beginning of last season.”
Joining Dunphy and Arms as key players are O’Brien — who will help anchor the defense — and forward Amanda Whitbeck. Junior Sami Harvey is a midfielder with experience.
“We’re all trying to help the juniors and sophomores get acquainted to what it’s like on the varsity level,” Arms said. “So far I’m feeling pretty confident in our team. We have a lot of skilled players.”