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Field hockey seniors wanted to give freshman Big Ten title




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Freshman forward/midfielder Jessica Albers, left, sings along with junior back Jenni Smith, right, while waiting for the NCAA Selection Showing on Nov. 10, 2013, at Berkowitz Basketball Complex. The Spartans, after winning the Big Ten Tournament, were selected to play against Miami (OH) at home on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Danyelle Morrow/The State News



Accomplishment. Pride. Happiness.

Head coach Helen Knull said those three words are among thousands the team could use to describe winning the Big Ten Championship.

But for three of the members of the field hockey team, perhaps a different word is more fitting: familiar.

Seniors Molly Cassidy, Kristen Henn and Adelle Lever have been there before.

As freshmen on the 2009 field hockey team, they were part Big Ten Championship squad that ultimately fell to Virginia one game shy of the Final Four.

Back in January, the three seniors decided they would recapture the success of the 2009 season not for their own selfish gain, but to allow the younger girls on the team to experience a Big Ten Tournament run.

“For the seniors, we’ve already lived that dream once,” goalkeeper, Molly Cassidy said. “We really talked about how we wanted to get back to the Big Ten Tournament in the NCAA’s for the girls that are going to be the future of the program. We wanted that so much more for them.”

In making good on that goal, this experience will set an archetype of success the non-seniors will carry with them as the program continues.

“They just put it out there and they said this is what they wanted to achieve,” Knull said. “They really led the way and they gave the guidance and they shared the experiences and stories.

“That kind of fueled the younger girls to want to accomplish their goals. I’m really pleased that the legacy they wanted to leave, they’ve done. It’s going to set the tone for the future and the future of the program.”

It’s a fitting career end for a trio of players who have seen opposite sides of the coin as far as program success.

The 2010 field hockey team was eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament in the second round. The 2011 and 2012 squads fell in the first round.

“It’s really cool,” Henn said. “We joked earlier that it’s like having bookends on your career. You come in and win the Big Ten, when you’re leaving you win the Big Ten.”

Knull, who was an assistant coach during the 2009 season, said it was a different road to the championship compared to the previous title.

The 2009 team went 6-0 in conference play and had a first round bye in the Tournament. This year’s team overcame a rough 2-5 start to the season and finished 4-2 in conference play with a .500 regular season record.

It was pure motivation and confidence that allowed the 2013 Spartan field hockey team to exceed the odds in winning a Big Ten Championship.

“This year, it’s just been a harder road,” Knull said.

“You start earlier in the season not where you want to be. It’s easy to lose belief and lose hope that you’re going to get there. Give the team credit, they kept fighting and kept believing and that’s kind of given us the momentum.”


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