By: Devin Garner
On July 15, it was announced by St. Mary’s College of Maryland that the fall sports season would be suspended due to the ongoing health concerns amidst the coronavirus. While this was devastating news for fall senior athletes, it presented an opportunity for them to step up as leaders and guide their team through troubling times. This was surely the case with the St. Mary’s field hockey team, led by standout Head Coach Jessica Lanham and three star seniors: Meghan Ronan (‘21), Hannah Dietrich (‘21) and Emily Pulkowski (‘21).
In order to make up for being unable to play, the players have been utilizing 50 minute individual time slots on the turf and in the gym, even though they have not yet been able to practice as a whole team. They have been using this time off as an opportunity to work on their individual skills. When asking Ronan how the team has been making up for not playing this fall, she stated: “Like all fall athletes, we are upset about not being able to play this fall. However, now is the time we really get to work on our individual stick skills and bond with each other away from field hockey.” Ronan goes on to exclaim, “it is definitely a different type of season but we are doing our best to keep it fun!” Dietrich went on to explain how the team is keeping one another involved and holding each member responsible as she states, “as of now, we have been holding each other accountable for completing workouts which is always fun.”
College coaches have also been dealt a difficult hand as the pandemic has presented enormous barriers for coaching. This year, they have to find a different way to connect with and coach their players. While this is not an easy task, Coach Lanham has not allowed this to stop her from running a successful and hardworking program. When asking her how she has found a way to still serve as a coach and mentor to her players without a season, she stated that “as a team we are still connecting, whether it be in person or virtual. I meet with my freshmen on a weekly basis to go over their academic and social life at St. Mary’s.” She went on to talk about a program that she is implementing this semester by saying, “throughout the semester, I will be providing virtual leadership education to my team, to mentor them as they grow as leaders on and off the field.”
When asking Ronan and Dietrich the impact that Coach Lanham has had on them, they both shared glowing remarks. Ronan argued, “Coach Lanham has changed this program drastically… Over the past three years coach Jess has helped me gain confidence in myself and has taught me how to be a great leader for the field hockey team and life in general.” She went on to state, “Coach Jess is one of my role models as she is hard working, competitive and caring, which are three aspects that any player would want from their coach.” Dietrich had similar remarks about the impact that Coach Lanham has had on the program since her arrival. Dietrich exclaims, “Coach Jess is always working to ensure we are successful on and off the field, which is something that I value so much.”
While the seniors’ time at St. Mary’s is coming to an end, they are nevertheless thankful for the moments that they have had on the team. Ronan states that her favorite memory on the team was beating York College at their home field last season. Dietrich’s best memory was the opening of the Jamie Roberts Stadium and being able to see the turf field for the first time, which displays how hard the school has worked to ensure that their athletes can play at the next level. She states: “Because of this we were able to have one of the best seasons last Fall, going 10-0 during the beginning months. That is something that I will remember forever.”
Coach Lanham has high praise for each member of her senior class. She begins by saying: “these seniors mean so much to our field hockey program here at St. Mary’s. They were my first recruits to St. Mary’s and have worked hard to establish a culture of excellence within our team.” In an individual address to each player, Lanham states: “Hannah will be remembered for her mentorship and openness to our younger players as well as her personality. Emily or ‘LP’ will be remembered for her dedication, work ethic, competitive nature and caring personality. Megan or ‘Ronan’ will be remembered for her hard work, commitment and her desire to always get better in all areas of life.”
While the St. Mary’s College of Maryland field hockey team may not be hitting the turf in full uniform, they are nevertheless staying united as a team, led by their senior athletes and head coach. In her final remarks, Dietrich exclaimed: “Shoutout to coach Jess for always supporting and believing in us no matter what! And a huge shout out to the senior class, Meghan Ronan and Emily Pulkowski!”