C/O McMaster's Sports

A promising start to a season of uncertainty for a young team as they earn their first win, tie and loss this season

The McMaster University women’s field hockey team played their first home game on Sep. 17, marking the start of their second season in the Ontario University Association league.   

The team played both their home opener and first away game on Sep. 18 against the Waterloo Warriors. McMaster wrapped up the double-header with a one-to-nothing victory at home and one-one tie on the road.  

“As a first weekend, having a win and a tie is something as a team — we’re pretty proud of. Especially considering we’re only going to get better as the season goes on. I think [for] half of our team that was their first ever university field hockey game,” explained Jessica Lim, one of the team’s three captains.   

“As a first weekend, having a win and a tie is something — as a team — we’re pretty proud of. Especially considering we’re only going to get better as the season goes on."

Jessica Lim, McMaster Women's Field Hockey team Co-Captain

Along with her other teammates, Lim commended the impressive performance by goalkeeper Olivia Renaud. Renaud made a total of 11 saves in the first two games and was later named U Sports Field Hockey Player of the Week.

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The following week the Marauders unfortunately fell short in a road game against the Queens Gaels. The McMaster team played a strong first three quarters, but the Gaels were able to score two quick goals in the closing minutes, making the final score one to two.  

“I feel confident that as we gain more experience, as we spend more time playing together as a team and [learning] to read each other better, we’ll be able to play more complete games,” said Lim.  

The regular outdoor season consists of 10 games and lasts around a month. The league is divided into an east and west division but unlike last year McMaster will face all seven other teams at least once before the playoffs begin. As a result as the Marauders learn to play together, they also have the chance to feel out the other teams.  

“We’re definitely one of the underdogs this season and I think we’re coming out and surprising teams. They don’t really know what to expect but we’re putting it all out on the field and we make sure we give it our all every game,” said Serena Uppal, another of the team captains.

“We’re definitely one of the underdogs this season and I think we’re coming out and surprising teams. They don’t really know what to expect but we’re putting it all out on the field and we make sure we give it our all every game,”

Serena Uppal, McMaster Women's Field Hockey Team Co-Captain

Uppal and Lim also acknowledged their head coach, Jonathan Roberts, and assistant coach, Kathryn Williams, as two key factors in their success so far. Both coaches have represented Canada in international indoor field hockey competitions and have been critical in growing the field hockey program at McMaster. 

The winners of the OUA Championships at the end of October will clinch a spot in the U Sports women’s field hockey championship. They will face-off with one of three teams from the Canada West Division.   

“We are happy with how we started the season off, but we’re not content. We don’t want our season to be over after ten games . . . We want to make playoffs and have the opportunity and the chance to compete for a championship,” explained Uppal.  

The Marauders have plenty of time to demonstrate their grit and compatibility as a team, though the coming games will determine whether the relatively young team is championship material.

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Students can catch the team in action at Alumni Field on Oct. 8, Oct. 12 and Oct. 14. More information can also be found online or on the team Instagram.

C/O Yoohyun Park

The Marauders field hockey team describes new challenges and hopes for their first season

McMaster’s field hockey team has made their debut as varsity players in the Ontario University Athletics. Due to COVID-19 restrictions this year, the OUA has divided the eight Ontario field hockey teams into two divisions, East and West, with each team playing eight regular season games. The Marauders are in the West division and play against the Guelph Gryphons, Waterloo Warriors and Western Mustangs. 

Due to these changes, the Marauder field hockey team has many challenges for this season as they fight to make a name for themselves within the OUA. Rebecca Jiang is one of the captains of the field hockey team. 

“I'm just looking forward to having a good season and being able to prove ourselves in the OUAs, I feel like we've been underestimated a lot in previous years. So, I just want to be able to come on strong and prove that we can play and compete,” said Jiang.

As a result of school taking place virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, many sports teams, field hockey included, were unable to practice. Jessica Lim, Jiang’s co-captain, also speaks on this issue. 

“It's been different and I think that's been true for all of the sports teams. It's a huge transition, going from having light practicing, if any practice at all, and just doing conditioning, to having games practically every week . . . The games are twice every single weekend now, which is a huge jump than during the pandemic, [when] we didn't have anything,” Lim explained.

This year, the field hockey season only lasts for one month, making the level of intensity a lot higher, which can easily take a toll on the players. Playing a high performance sport at the provincial level is not easy and it requires a tremendous amount of individual and group effort. Since the team was previously not able to practice in-person, the team dynamic has changed with many members having graduated over the past two years and new first- and second-year teammates joining. 

Briana Da Silva, a member of the field hockey team, described the comparison. 

“Last year, we did a lot on Zoom, but obviously that’s nothing compared to in-person. We would do team workouts and team challenges, we’d group up that way to do a little team bonding, but I really don’t think Zoom has anything on being in-person when it comes to team building,” said Da Silva. 

In addition, being a good teammate helps maintain a positive team spirit. 

“Everyone has their bad days and everyone has off days on the field and off days just in their personal life. And the great thing about a team sport is that there's always 20 other girls who are with you . . . That's really the thing to remember, that if someone's down you don't have to be down with them, you can just take your energy and help bring them up,” explained Lim.

Da Silva too prides herself in her team spirit and contributing to the team’s positive disposition. 

“I pride in team dynamic, so I really am always trying to keep the morale up. But also I know those girls have my back like a family and I know if you show up in a positive mood, it’s just [going to] reflect on the whole entire team,” 

-Briana Da Silva

The team is more than halfway through the season, with their next home game on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. If interested, be sure to watch them play on Alumni Field against the Western Mustangs. 

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The team now gets its chance to compete for the provincial championship over a full season

Up until the 2016 season, the McMaster University women’s field hockey team competed in exhibition games and tournaments strictly as a club. In 2016, the team entered the Ontario University Athletics tournament still as a club, but not the league; they were allowed to play exhibition games, but could not be involved in the league standings with the other seven teams.

“It’s extremely hard to grow a program when you’re not getting enough of that game experience. All these other teams are playing their whole season but then we show up with maybe a couple of exhibition games of playtime. The rest is just practicing,” said Briana Wice, a fourth-year kinesiology student and current co-president of the team.

“It’s extremely hard to grow a program when you’re not getting enough of that game experience. All these other teams are playing their whole season but then we show up with maybe a couple of exhibition games of playtime. The rest is just practicing,” said Briana Wice, a fourth-year kinesiology student and current co-president of the team.

Now, the team is officially an OUA team, meaning they can participate in the entire league and its entirety of games. There is still limbo on when the season will resume. Regardless, training will commence with fitness programming during virtual Zoom sessions. As tryouts cannot be done right now, members will be recruited as part of the training program and then will have to try out once they are given the green light by the OUA and McMaster. Thus, members will have great conditioning prior to their first interaction on the field.

With regards to how the team functions, the team is a full-year team, playing in both the outdoor (September to October) and indoor (January to March) seasons. The team operates in a similar function to an MSU club, with two co-presidents who manage the administrative and financial responsibilities; they report to their club coordinator in part of the McMaster Athletics department.

Whereas U Sports has coaches who are hired on full-time contracts with a predetermined salary, OUA coaches are recruited as volunteers, sometimes being rewarded with compensation, as Wice explained to us.

“I think another thing is that other teams have conditioning and strengthening trainers that are not their coaches. So we have to plan all the fitness training by ourselves,” said Rebecca Jiang, a third-year health sciences student on the team.

Financially, the team is self-funded either through individual payments or through fundraisers.

“We try to fundraise as much as we can to offset [team costs], so paying to play isn’t a major stressor on our athletes,” said Wice. “The big financial burden is going to be all of the travel costs associated with games for a full outdoor season. So that’s travel for every week. Either taking a bus or reimbursement for gas and parking costs . . . As part of OUA sports, it’s required for us to stay in hotels. So when travelling to McGill [University in Montreal], as it’s in the OUA league, there are big hotel costs with that. Financially, we have done a lot of budgeting. We expect our expenses to double the next year; it’s really the travel and hotel costs that increase the cost of the season,” said Wice.

“The big financial burden is going to be all of the travel costs associated with games for a full outdoor season. So that’s travel for every week. Either taking a bus or reimbursement for gas and parking costs . . . As part of OUA sports, it’s required for us to stay in hotels. So when travelling to McGill [University in Montreal], as it’s in the OUA league, there are big hotel costs with that. Financially, we have done a lot of budgeting. We expect our expenses to double the next year; it’s really the travel and hotel costs that increase the cost of the season,” said Wice.

Despite these challenging logistics, the team has high aspirations for its first full OUA season.

“We’re hoping to place higher than previously in the OUA championship. Another goal is to increase the visibility of McMaster field hockey everywhere . . . A lot of McMaster students and athletes are not aware we have a field hockey team so we hope over the upcoming years, we hope a lot of people learn about us and have a couple of home games to raise awareness,” said Jessica Lim, a third-year software engineering student. The team plans to also conduct community outreach for high school students and give more recognition for the sport in its entirety.

“We’re hoping to place higher than previously in the OUA championship. Another goal is to increase the visibility of McMaster field hockey everywhere . . . A lot of McMaster students and athletes are not aware we have a field hockey team so we hope over the upcoming years, we hope a lot of people learn about us and have a couple of home games to raise awareness,” said Jessica Lim, a third-year software engineering student.

As they now prepare for their first season, while a medal would be wonderful in the short run, the overall movement of field hockey to become a global sport remains the ultimate goal. An official announcement from the team regarding their OUA status will be released in the coming weeks.

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