a century ago, when British field-hockey enthusiast Constance Applebee
spread the gospel of stickwork and shooting skills to New England's
elite college campuses, Mount Holyoke women were among the first
to see the light. They relished the fast-paced dribbling across
the fresh-cut autumn grass, the grip of the hooked hardwood stick,
the whack of wood against a leather ball. They practiced the scoop,
flick, and push, mastered the dodge, pass, and tackle. And fifty
years into the century, they trimmed--that is, walloped--Harvard's
in their pleated navy kilts, white shin guards, and cleats, a new
generation of field hockey players at Mount Holyoke competes in
a dynamic game that combines speed, control, and strategic foresight.
To the delight of their fans, the "Lyons" have surged
into the twenty-first century with a Rookie of the Year and two
All-Conference Team picks. The season's thirteen victories began
with an opening game shutout of Simmons College. By late October,
the tenacious team had advanced to the New England Women's and Men's
Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship game. Though seeded number
four and edged out by Springfield College 2 to 1, the team was invited
to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament--a
Mount Holyoke first.
to R) Laura Sasur '02, Bridget Lee '02 (behind) and Amy Gimbel
'03 fight for possession of the ball against Amherst College
Whitcomb, who has coached Mount Holyoke's field hockey and softball
teams since 1998, says that in thirteen years of coaching she has
not seen players with the kind of spirit and cohesion exhibited
by Mount Holyoke's current close-knit group. "They are the
epitome of a team, the kind a coach dreams of," she says, "the
kind that breaks bread together--travels to Boston together off-season."
Included in the lineup of stellar first-year players, Mount Holyoke's
scrappy midfielder, Amy Gimbel '03, was voted the NEWMAC Rookie
of the Year. In May, she was honored as Mount Holyoke's Most Valuable
Player. "Amy is fast, strong, down and dirty," Whitcomb
says of the New Jersey athlete whose mother (Irene LeFloch Gimbel)
graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1972. Gimbel and Krista Lindquist
'03, the team's high-scoring forward, were also named to the All-Conference
who began playing field hockey in the sixth grade and is also a
passionate equestrian, demonstrates substantial competitive drive
and team spirit. She is, as Whitcomb says, "one of those flashy
players who carries people on her back." Gimbel insists credit
goes to Whitcomb, who she says inspires the players to perform at
the top of their game. "It's a fabulous time to be a part of
the Mount Holyoke team," Gimbel says. "Coach has definitely
turned this program around. I couldn't be happier--she's just amazing.
We took a lot of teams by surprise."
Whitcomb is a skilled tactician and an accessible and devoted leader.
Her coaching incorporates what has become a familiar "3-D"
mantra among the players: "I'm demanding, demonstrative, and
sometimes difficult," Whitcomb tells them. Summer workout schedules
are custom-designed by the coach for the players, some of whom attend
field hockey camp, and are followed by rigorous preseason scrimmages
and drills. Such faithful conditioning led to such season high points
as this year's victory over Smith College--the first in thirteen
years on Smith's home turf.
insists accolades go to all her players, many of whom were cited
in the year's athletic department awards, and to her assistant coach,
Erica Johnston, a three-time All-American at UMass. The team's goalkeepers,
Katie Davis '03 and Elizabeth Wishart '03, received Impact Player
awards for their formidable blocking techniques, which were instrumental
factors in the team's success, says Whitcomb. She also cites the
offensive skills of her three first-year forwards, Lindquist, Coleen
Colahan, and Rebecca Lee. The coach describes Rebecca's older sister,
Bridget Lee '02, and Christina Petrigliano '02 as "old standbys--just
really solid every time." And Jenny Eftychiou '02, who plays
back, "had a great season for us defensively and in fact is
our most improved player." With the past season's many successes,
Whitcomb believes the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
tournament is now within reach. "The team had a fantastic season,"
she says. "Mount Holyoke has become a strong presence in the
game. It's a new era for us, and we're looking forward to an exciting