Women’s field hockey turns around rocky start to finish at the CAA championships


Courtesy of Jim Pierce/Northeastern Athletics.

The women’s field hockey team huddles together on the field.

Lauren Thomas, news staff

Despite starting its season with a losing record, the Northeastern University women’s field hockey team pushed its way to the CAA Championship game Nov. 5. 

After COVID-19 hindered last season and caused many games to be canceled and players to sit out, the women’s field hockey team was revitalized by a large group of underclassmen. 

“We had a big incoming freshman class that contributed more than we could have ever imagined with their personalities and their field play,” said redshirt senior goaltender Erin Savage. 

Losing its first four matches, the team struggled to get momentum going into the first half of the season.  

“It was kind of a tough season,” said senior midfielder and forward Lexie Dunleavy. “It was a slower start, so our record didn’t look too great, but then the team really came together. The coaches really helped pick up different styles and techniques so that we all became this new team that we weren’t expecting. We really connected with each other and it started to show at the end of the season.”

Rather than let the losses get the best of them, the players used their first home match Sept. 10 to rack up a win against College of the Holy Cross. 

“We definitely didn’t start out too hot and then we were able to turn things around,” Savage said. “We knew we had a special group, we knew we had the potential, but something just wasn’t clicking. I think we finally figured out how to play with each other because we knew each other so well off of the field. I’m just so proud of how we faced adversity at first and were able to come back and finish reaching the potential that I thought that we had from the very beginning.”

This season, the team of 22 was evenly split between underclassmen and upperclassmen. Throughout the season, the group continued to grow closer as teammates and as friends. 

“This season, I think I could have called each and every single one of my teammates my best friend,” Savage said. “It was just so special in that sense that we had such a good group, regardless of age. We were able to put any disputes over field hockey aside, and at the end of the day, we just appreciate each other as friends.”

Though the players remained relatively healthy, the team was not without the usual wear-and-tear injuries, such as shin splints, that come with seasons that span the four months from August to November. 

“You try to manage injuries over time, but it gets to a point when you have to take time off,” Dunleavy said. “That was something that a couple of the girls faced this year. It definitely impacts us because, when you’re injured, it becomes a mental health game at that point. You have to try to convince yourself ‘Ok, you have to go to practice, you have to support your teammates,’ but it’s hard not being able to play.”

After persevering last year without a full team due to COVID-19 restrictions keeping international players at home, the Huskies adopted a new strategy this season. 

“Last season was really hard because we were missing a lot of girls,” Dunleavy said. “It was all about having a good attitude last semester, and it was all about being adaptable and coming in every day and making the best out of it. This year it was really cool because we got to focus more on actual skill sets, situational plays and change our tactics depending on who we were playing.” 

The turbulent 2021 season ended in double overtime at the CAA Championship game against James Madison University. 

“We all really wanted to be there for each other and that showed in double overtime, which was not easy,” Dunleavy said. “I was very proud of every single person because they really left it all out there.” 

Ultimately, the Huskies fell to JMU with a final score of 1-2. 

“It was one of those games where we did everything right, but JMU was such a dominant team and they’re so skillful,” Savage said. “We knew that we were going to have to work really hard and be very precise with all of our skills and pretty much just leave it all out on the field, and I think that’s exactly what we did. Our energy, our confidence and our connections were all there, and it was an even match.”

Competing in the CAA Championships has been a part of the team’s accomplishments in three of the last four seasons. 

“For that to be where we ended the season; going to double overtime with the number one seed in the conference after starting 0-4, is just very telling of the grit and the determination that our group had, which is so special,” Savage said. “I wouldn’t have changed anything in that game — it was such a beautiful moment for all of us.”

Though they finished the season with a record of 7-12, returning players are already focused on making improvements. 

“They’re already back in the weight room, they’re back playing pick up without the coaches — that’s really cool to see the shift from the underclassmen coming in,” Dunleavy said. “I think they’re going to be able to take the program to the next level in the following years.”