SWANTON/HENNIKER, NH — This fall, three MVU field hockey players had the opportunity to play the sport they love at the college level.
Renee Bouchard, Makenzie Reed, and Sophie Yandow all chose to attend New England College in Henniker, NH.
The chance to take a collegiate field with teammates from high school is a rare one.
“Attending college was a big transition,” said Bouchard, “and it was nice to have familiar faces.”
“It’s a lot easier to have somebody here from home,” said Yandow, “and it was a lot of fun coming into an environment where the sport is taken more seriously.”
The three girls played defense together at MVU, but high school positions don’t necessarily dictate college ones.
“I scored my first goal this fall,” said Reed, who was moved to an offensive position. “It’s been tough getting out of the defensive mindset; I had to learn to play offense.”
“The second game I started, they kept me through the whole first quarter. I was focusing hard and doing well,” said Yandow. “When the confidence comes back you can relax and enjoy the game.”
Bouchard and Yandow have retained their defensive positions, for the most part, but there are still plenty of adjustments to be made.
“You’re taught certain techniques when you’re playing on grass,” said Yandow. “Learning to play on turf requires different techniques. The ball moves very differently.”
For Bouchard, some of the changes have come on the mental side of the game.
“I’m much more focused on field hockey in general,” said Bouchard, “and I find I’m thinking about it all the time.”
One of the biggest realizations for Bouchard came during the team’s scrimmages.
“I was making mistakes and getting frustrated, and I began to realize that I was a freshman,” said Bouchard. “I was going to make mistakes, and I was going to get better. “
“We’re learning how to react in new situations,” said Bouchard, “and I am asking questions constantly. I’ve started in quite a few games. I’ve earned that spot, and I know I have to keep pushing myself to get better to keep it.”
All of the girls have another thing in common--they love their coach, Carly Sweeney.
“Coach Sweeney is one of my favorites,” said Bouchard, smiling. “I take one on ones with her, and she stays until we are both satisfied with where we’re at that day.”
“She knows our strengths and weaknesses,” said Yandow, “and she is good at reading us and letting us know what we need to improve.”
All the girls also have respect for the Jeanne Rainville, the woman who taught them the game at MVU.
“Coach Rainville taught us what we were supposed to be doing mentally and physically,” said Yandow. “We were well prepared for college.”
“Coach Rainville played field hockey at UVM, and her daughter played there as well,” said Bouchard. “She knew how to get us out there.”
Sweeney, who’s in her third season with the Pilgrim field hockey program, is also grateful for the work being done at MVU.
“Jeanne is excited to see her athletes push to the next level,” said Sweeney. “She makes sure they are getting exposure and talking to college coaches. We appreciate her because we appreciate the athletes she’s providing us.”
“Having a chance to play college athletics is a wonderful experience,” said Sweeney, “and any coach that values that does a lot for their players.”
NEC recruited 16 freshmen this year, including the three from MVU.
“The girls from MVU are all constantly willing to learn,” said Sweeney. “I’m excited to see their growth over the next three years.”
“Yandow and Reed have contributed in the midfield,” said Sweeney. “They are very versatile.”
“Renee has an ice hockey background which makes her a strong competitor in the backfield,” said Sweeney. “She is good about getting her body in a position to defend the ball.”
Judging from the talent and effort they’ve seen, the NEC coaching staff wouldn’t hesitate to recruit from MVU again.
“The athletes from MVU have helped to elevate the program,” said Sweeney.
The recruiting has been working. The NEC field hockey team earned a trip to playoffs this year after securing the fifth seed.
“It’s been a few years since NEC qualified for playoffs,” said Bouchard, “and two-thirds of the team are freshmen. Our senior year is going to be great.”
The girls reflected on the regular season as they looked forward to playoffs.
“I find that I spend a lot more time practicing on my own then I did in high school,” said Reed. “You are always looking to improve at the college level.”
“We’re away from home, but the team here is our family,” said Bouchard. “There’s always someone to rely on, and you’re always busy. I love that.”
“We all love field hockey, so it’s like bringing something you love form home and getting even better at it,” said Yandow. “It’s a big confidence booster for your freshman year.”