On the way to Tuesday’s mega season finale against Delmar, Cape Henlopen field hockey coach Kate Austin had a sense of dread.
“Keep the paper away from me if we lose,” she said after Cape’s 4-1 win.
“There’s no need for a streak.”
It is the question Austin is asked every time the Vikings play.
For the past few fall seasons, the field hockey team has been under a microscope.
It’s no secret why — they hold an 82-game win streak against in-state opponents, and 69 unbeaten against all opponents.
It’s historic and anytime in the future, great teams will be compared to the squads that have come through the program.
But with each win, the pressure mounts on the coaches, the players and the program.
Those are the reasons why Austin dislikes The Streak.
“We don’t like to hear about it, but it’s great to win,” Austin said. “Everybody on this team likes to win, I like to win, our coaches like to win, but we could do without the streak. It would be nice not to be reminded about that.”
Field hockey and girls lacrosse at Cape Henlopen have become synonymous with its streaks. The Vikings lacrosse team has won seven state titles in a row and has an 84-game win streak against Delaware opponents.
Head coach PJ Kesmodel understands why Austin deflects attention about the importance of continuing the run of wins.
Much like Austin, he never mentions it.
There’s no need to add any pressure on a high school athlete, he said.
The kids are aware of it, and it motivates them, which is a great thing but something for them to choose.
While he was coaching across the bridge in Maryland, Kesmodel ran across a team that did pressure its kids to keep a winning streak alive.
It really bothered him and that’s why he never talks about it to his players.
“When we get to the state final, what I stress to the kids, if we play our best game and do everything we’re supposed to do properly, and they win? They win,” he said.
It’s just a matter of playing the game the right way, being prepared and not quitting.
After Cape field hockey’s latest win, Austin stressed a similar outlook, “If you’re playing well and doing what you’re supposed to be doing, the wins are going to come.”
But as much negatives come with the pressure, streaks bring a double-edged sword approach.
Salesianum football coach Bill DiNardo had an impressive run of his own in the late-’90s with Middletown High School.
DiNardo and the team won 28 straight games.
There’s a lot of good and bad that comes with it, he said.
On the positive side, it gives kids an expectation and it drives them toward a goal, learning valuable life lessons along the way.
“You know the expectation that we’re supposed to succeed,” DiNardo said. “We’re not going to hope to win. It’s part of tradition.”
It becomes the expectation even when that winning team graduates, however.
And with each win, everyone wants more.
“On the negative side, it becomes that cloud hanging over your head,” he said. “There’s a great deal of pressure on you to do what the others have done.”
As a coach, he just wanted kids to focus on one game and live in the moment, win or lose.
That is exactly what Austin has done, and she should be applauded for that.
Streaks really are a Catch-22.
The Cape student body and administration swell with pride about what the sports teams have been able to accomplish.
The atmosphere at an evening game in Lewes is always passionate and other Delaware schools raise their game when they come to play.
But streaks end, and it will crush some athletes.
The parallels between good and bad are endless.
At the end of the day, enjoy it, embrace it or dread it — it’s just a game.
“It’s always a tough thing to deal with, but it’s a nice problem,” Kesmodel said.
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