New Path, New Direction

THE WEEK THAT WAS - Sports Blog by Tommy Orndorff

Some of the more popular blogs through the years have been Q&A sit-downs with our coaches. That noted, this week's The Week That Was is a Q&A session with first-year varsity field hockey head coach Eighmey Zeeck (pictured right).

First, a little background on the Knights' coaching staff. Eighmey Zeeck hails from Colorado and was a four-year starter as a left midfielder at Randolph-Macon Women's College, a DIII program in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. She began coaching girls while in college at Virginia Episcopal School, where she was an assistant girls lacrosse coach. Eighmey is also the varsity girls lacrosse coach locally at JEB Stuart High School.

Her two varsity assistants also have great collegiate experience in field hockey: Kate Savitz played DI field hockey at Central Michigan for four years and has coached at both Langley and Washington-Lee high schools. Carleen Knauf was a four-year starting goal keeper for American University. She coached for eight years at Good Counsel prior to coaching goalkeepers at O'Connell.

Coach Zeeck also cited her awesome JV coach, Chris Thomas. He came to O'Connell from the U.S. Virgin Islands where he began his coaching career. His coaching experience in boys basketball and baseball has been a key to giving the JV program a lift. His knowledge and drive are exactly what the program needs.

Q: Why O'Connell? Why now? What was the appeal of O'Connell?

COACH ZEECK: After graduate school, I knew I wanted to get back into coaching and I missed field hockey. I saw that this position was available and sent my information to Mr. Wootten. He contacted me very quickly for an interview, and, after talking with him and Patrick (Demers), I knew that the O'Connell Athletic Department had the goals, mindset, drive, and vision for the field hockey program that I had too. It solidified my desire to coach at O'Connell upon hearing that not only the parents, but the athletes were craving strong coaching and a new path forward.

Q: Talk to me about your season to date – citing any highlights, both team and individual? Team strengths? Team weaknesses?

COACH ZEECK: We are in a rebuilding year. The coaching staff quickly realized that the girls needed to bolster their basic knowledge necessary to really succeed at this game. The girls are coachable, but we need to get them to build up their confidence in their skills so that it translates in our games. We love playing in the middle of the field, so we are working on spreading the field, and trusting that our teammates will do their jobs. This is a great group of talented girls. I know that it will click.

Q: Who are our top players – and why are they so? Address their individual skills and abilities and, at the same time, what they bring to the team.

COACH ZEECK: Our top players are our new goalie, Skye Hartsoe. She has never been a field hockey goalie but has the drive, enthusiasm, and spunk we need for the position. She has had some great saves already this year.

Our entire defense needs huge credit, because they have it on lock down there. They understand our defensive system, know how to be helpful to keep the ball in the offensive end, and are absolutely fearless. We have already heard positive feedback about our defense from opposing coaching staffs.

On offense, our standouts are Kenley Sweeney (pictured below), Jessica Seager (pictured right), and Cora Wack (pictured above) – all midfielders. They help our transition onto offense and play all over the field, intercept passes, and really help set up the plays on offense.

Q: Big, big win over Paul VI! Talk to me specifically about that game. For the first time that I can remember since the program began five years ago, we were the aggressors – dominating the game from the beginning and keeping the pressure on a first-year Paul VI program. For sure, it was awesome to see. Give me some stats on this game, such as goal scorers, assists, saves, etc.

COACH ZEECK: This game was a HUGE boost for us. The girls finally realized how much fun it is to play well – spreading the field, trusting your teammates, using set corner plays, etc. This game helped them realize how the game of field hockey should be played! Our offense finally clicked and trusted their ability to just take shots.

I think the best part is that all of our goals were scored by different people: Chloe Reed, Kirsten Knauf, Jessica Seager, and Olivia Pope, with assists from Katie Bourque, Camille Seldin, and Cailey McLaughlin. We had 15 penalty corners and 24 shots on goal.

Q: Other than being our first win of the season, what does that win mean to our program? What are your goals for this year's team? What are your long-term goals for the program?

It is the program's first Varsity win since the 2014 season. It shows that we have the ability to win, and I hope it helps the girls build their confidence not only in their skills but in how to play as a unit. We played as a unit against Paul VI. It also helps the coaching staff show that all the hard work we are asking them to put in at practice pays off. We are officially on a new path, and there is no looking back.

Q: What would you personally like to see written about this year's team?

COACH ZEECK: I want it to be known that this team worked hard, they were not afraid to come into a new season, with an all-new coaching staff, and new expectations. They were ready to take a new direction and play with pride as O'Connell Knights.

This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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