Loudoun County’s field hockey team perseveres despite season changes


A field hockey teammate hits a ball during a game. This year, the team has had to adjust to multiple changes due to COVID.

It’s the middle of March, yet the girls of Loudoun County High School’s field hockey team are mid-season. Predominately a fall sport, field hockey has been pushed back due to the coronavirus. All sports that usually take place in the fall are now ensuing in early spring.

“Having a [sports] season during a different season is something that athletes have to adapt to,” Coach Maggie Darby said. “We normally play in the fall with much warmer temperatures. Playing during the spring season with much colder temperatures affects the equipment and the athlete’s body.”

Although there were many changes brought on by COVID, one of the most severe seems to be the temperature change for outdoor sports.

“I think it’s been a little bit harder, just because we’re so used to playing in the fall time, and even though it does get colder [in the fall], I think right now it’s been pretty brutal,” defender Lauren Bukovsky said.

However, most people agree that playing during the spring is better than not having a season at all. The players are willing to play regardless of restrictions that may affect them.

“I’m just happy that kids are getting to play,” Kate Cassidy, Loudoun County High School’s athletics director, said. “The option was either to cancel a whole entire season like we had to last spring… This way, at least everyone’s getting the opportunity to do their sport, it just might not be in the normal time that they’re used to, and it’s fewer games.”

The season time was also shortened, to ensure that all athletes across a range of different sports could have a chance to play.

“I was worried how my team would perform with the condensed season,” midfielder Olivia DeWan said. “I felt like we didn’t have as much time to prepare for our games.”

Since the pandemic began, rules have been changed frequently by the Virginia High School League (VHSL). They’ve governed everything from temperature-taking to spacing required between athletes to the number of spectators allowed at games.

“Just the constant change of the illness itself, and the constant change of information, and regulations, whether it’s been by the governor, or the state, or the county. It’s ever evolving; every day something changes,” Cassidy said.

The athletes are still adjusting to the new rules put into place.

“Running with a mask is really difficult,” midfielder Ava Pietrzak said.

Masks are required for the teammates throughout practices but are optional during games.

“[Masks] make it really hard to breathe, and I was so relieved when we found out we were allowed to play games without them,” DeWan said.

Also, temperature checks are required before every practice and teammates have to social distance while on the sidelines.

“I know it’s harder on them… you’re used to being close to your teammates, high fiving, encouraging them, and now we’re telling you to stay six feet apart; wear a mask… it goes against everything you’re used to doing in sports,” Cassidy said.

If someone on the team gets COVID, practices are suspended for two weeks, taking a huge chunk of time out of the already-shortened season.

“Having our season only being about a month long, this will greatly hurt the team’s chances of going further in the district tournaments,” Darby said.

Despite the shortened season, the girls are grateful for the opportunities they do get to have.

“I’ve gotten to meet a bunch of new people, which is cool,” Pietrzak said.

They’ve still been able to have an enjoyable team experience, despite the changes.

“I am super proud of everyone on the team though, because regardless of the shortened season everyone is putting in so much work and effort,” DeWan said. “Everyone is committed and we are determined to do our best.”

Despite restrictions, the players still feel as if they are able to bond with their teammates.

“A silver lining could definitely be the way we connected so quickly,” DeWan said. “We all just immediately became friends. Everyone is always so welcoming and friendly. Nobody ever gets mad at each other and there is never any negative feedback from teammates.”

However, it still contrasts drastically with seasons before the pandemic.

“It’s kind of hard when someone makes a really good play, and then you almost go to slap their hand and or something, and tell them ‘good job,’ and I think that’s been kind of annoying, but it’s understandable,” Bukovsky said.

The changes have also affected the athletics staff at County. However, just like the players, they strive to look for the good.

“I love being able to see my players and build that team bond. I truly enjoy all my players and watching them grow as athletes and young adults,” Darby said.

All in all, the athletes are grateful that they even get a season, and they’re willing to play regardless of restrictions.

“I think our team has adjusted well considering the situation. It really has made me value the sport and team more,” midfielder Charlotte Penberthy said.

“[The season changes] make you just kind of appreciate the sport for the joy of the sport, not necessarily the win-loss or the championship at the end of the season,” Cassidy said.