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Youthful Tigers field hockey team looks to reclaim championship

The Dalhousie University Tigers women’s field hockey team has been a force in the Atlantic region in recent years. Winning the Atlantic University Women’s Field Hockey League (AUWFHL) Championship for four years in a row, the team fell to the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers 2-0 in the final game of the 2018 season. 

This year, the Tigers are “determined to get [the championship] back,” says fourth-year Ellery Platts, one of the team’s captains. 

Offseason changes 

Platts, named a league All-Star in the 2018 season, is one of only eight returning players. The remaining 10 spots on the roster are made up of rookies, making the team look very different than in previous years. Generally, four or five new recruits join the team each season. 

While the group is young and most players lack experience playing at the university level, the team culture remains strong.  

“I think the returners have really done a good job of stepping up,” says Platts. “One of the most important things is making sure that the new people feel comfortable, because if they’re uneasy, they don’t sit well with the team and if you can’t communicate well with the other players you’re not going to play as well as you could.” 

An important part of that communication is remaining focused on winning the championship tournament, which takes place Oct. 26 and 27 at Dal. 

“We’re all working together for one goal,” says Platts. “As much as I think everyone wants to rebuild and develop, I think everyone is super hungry for the championship.” 

With such a different roster, this season will be one in which the team transitions to its new core of players. Maintaining a competitive attitude and the belief that they have a real shot to win the championship will be key for the Tigers. 

In this image: The women's field hockey team for the 2019-2020 season.
After winning the Atlantic University Women’s Field Hockey League Championship for four years in a row, the women’s field hockey team lost to the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers in 2018. Photo by Ross McKinnon

New look from the sidelines 

The rookies on the field aren’t the only different faces on the Tigers this year. Former head coach Linda Bonin stepped down after the 2018 season, her fifteenth year coaching the team. 

Taking Bonin’s place is former player Danielle Dempsey, who steps into her first head coaching position with the team. Dempsey spent a total of eight years playing for the Tigers field hockey team while pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees at Dal. This was possible because the field hockey program is a Tier 1 club team, so players aren’t restricted by the five-year eligibility rules that govern varsity athletes. 

Dempsey sees similarities in this year’s team from her own playing experience. Comparing the group to her first season with the Tigers in 2008, she says, “We had to really start from the basics and learn a lot throughout the season. This year our team is already miles above where we would have been then.”  

She is confident that they will be able to put together a strong team on the field. Dempsey says of the first-years on the team that there is “good energy, and some good skill level already” to add to the talent of the returning players. 

Dempsey does not mince words when reiterating her player’s belief in their ability to win a 2019 championship: “I am confident we still have a shot.” 

Start of the season 

The Tigers had their first tournament of the year on Sept. 21 and Sept. 22. They lost two tight games, tied two contests — including one against the defending league champions, UPEI — and recorded a convincing 4-1 win over the Mount Allison University Mounties. Platts led the team on offence, scoring five times, while the Dalhousie defence held their opposition to just seven goals throughout the weekend. It is a promising starting point for Dal to be successful in the championship tournament this year. 

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