Pass Creek field rang with the tapping of field hockey sticks against the small, but solid balls, as the Stanley Humphries girls field hockey team got warmed up for practice on Monday afternoon.
There are 14 girls on the team and only five have returned from the previous year. The other nine are either brand new, or have taken some time off.
“There are a couple that took a year or years off so we kind of consider them new, because they haven’t been playing for a long time,” said coach Kathleen Dempster.
The team started practices in the first week of September, and have so far played two league games, one against L.V. Rogers Secondary School and the other against J.L Crowe Secondary School.
LVR and Crowe are the only other two teams in the league, and Stanley Humphries will have to best both to make it to provincials in Victoria. The bottom two teams in the league play in the semi-final and the winner of that plays the top team in the final to go onto provincials.
But it’s been a while since Stanley Humphries triumphed in the final game.
“I don’t think Stanley Humphries has qualified for provincials in about 40 years now,” said Dempster. “We had a really epic season last season, came so, so close.”
The team made it to the final last year, and dominated for much of the game, but ended up losing in a shoot out. But Dempster said even though a lot of the team is new this year, they still have a shot.
“It’s kind of a re-building year, but the difference between the teams, even with all the new girls that we have, isn’t that great, so it’s something that’s still achievable,” she said.
But this year Dempster’s main goal is to focus on spreading the word about field hockey.
“The numbers have been going down and dwindling in this area, and in the Interior in particular,” she said. “The girls that I spoke to before the season, their idea was just to get us going and get everyone loving field hockey.”
Historically field hockey has certainly done well in the West Kootenays, producing Team Canada player Thea Culley.
Dempster herself grew up in the region and went to high school at Stanley Humphries. She went on to play at the university level for McGill.
Asked if her players are at all inspired by the possibility of going on to play competitively, Dempster said some of them have thought about it.
“I played in university, and there’s a lot of girls who’ve been like, ‘Well, if you did it … we could do that too,’ ” she said. “I spoke to a few a bit about Thea Culley just so they know what’s out there and what they can accomplish, and talked to them about my experiences.There are definitely a few who have talked about trying to make that step forward.”
But most of the girls are just on the team to have fun and enjoy the game.
“[Field hockey] is probably my favourite sport. I’ve tried basically everything from like softball to competitive swimming, and this has been the one sport that I’ve stuck with the most,” said Tia Malloff, assistant captain and member of the team for five years.
“I started when my sister was on the team, and that was really fun, and I just kept going,” said Lisa Leffelaar, captain and also member of the team for five years.
“I used to play soccer for like 13 years, but I’ve mainly switched most of my interest to this sport because I love it so much,” said Ali D’Onofrio, the other assistant captain who’s played on the team on and off for three years, taking some time off due to concussions.
While all three girls would love to keep playing the game recreationally, they don’t think they’ll go on to play competitively.
“I don’t know if I’m good enough to play competitively, but if there’s any sort of league available … it would be a lot of fun,”says Leffelaar.
That being said, the team is still prepared to give it their all this season. Their next game is against L.V. Rogers Secondary School at Pass Creek field on Thursday at 4 p.m.