TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for June 29, 2021

June 29, 2021 — Field hockey United States Coach of the Year: Carrie Holman, Vienna James Madison (Va.)

In a scholastic field hockey year like no other, the state championship for Vienna James Madison (Va.) took place under circumstances that could only happen in a pandemic setting.

Think of this: a group of players, sticking together through a preseason lasting from August until February, are unleashed on their opposition teams in a sprint of a season, all the while motivated by a couple of mind-boggling expectations. And when the time came for the group to claim the ultimate prize, their leader could not be with them because she was two days away from giving birth.

But Carrie Holman’s team pulled through and won the final — by shutout. For steering the Warhawks through a season like no other, giving up no goals in the process, Holman is the TopOfTheCircle.com United States Coach of the Year for the 2020-21 academic year.


The James Madison field hockey team’s preseason began in August with two unanswered questions: “Will the Virginia High School League have a season?” and “When will the season take place?”

For the next five months, individual players worked out on their own or in small groups, as the Warhawks team was not allowed to have organized team activities as a group. As more news spilled out about the form and fashion of the season to come, the players kept on training, even as the fall season was postponed into a “Fall 2” season spanning about six weeks over the late winter and early spring.

Holman, as it turned out, had a lot of confidence about the kind of team she would be able to put onto the field when field hockey got the green light from authorities.

“I saw this group of seniors when they were freshmen, and I was the JV coach,” Holman says. “We knew they had the potential to be really good.”

Over a Zoom meeting shortly before training camp began, the team reached a consensus in the form of their team goals.

The two goals: “Have an undefeated season,” and “Not give up a goal all season.”

The latter of the two goals was a lofty one indeed. Fewer than a dozen teams have ever shut out all of their opponents in a season lasting eight games or more in the recorded history of scholastic field hockey in America.

These goals were tested early and often. First off, the opening outdoor practice for the Warhawks was postponed due to snow. There were no preseason friendlies in the Fall 2 field hockey season, meaning that every hour of practice before the team’s March 2 opener against Chantilly Westfield (Va.) was a precious resource.

Holman managed to get the team together in time to compete. She knew that her strength was in the senior class, and her personnel strength was in the midfield. She chose to put her three key players in a midfield triangle: Tess Satterfield as an attacking center midfield, and Lacey Rousseau and Elizabeth MacNiff as holding midfielders.

Against a Westfield team which had, only three seasons earlier, won the state championship, Madison won the opener on a last-minute goal. The team kept on winning, spinning together clean sheet after clean sheet. Holman’s coaching style was borne of simplicity: wind up the players in practice, let them go in games, and if it gets results, don’t fix it.

The results kept coming. The team, having placed first in league, had to go to the Northern Virginia Regional tournament (now known as the VHSL Class 6D Tournament) knowing that there was no room for error: only the winner of the regional would get to the four-team Class 6 state tournament. In a comprehensive performance to finish off the 13-team bracket, James Madison beat Arlington Washington-Liberty (Va.) 4-0 to advance.

After a win 2-0 over Fairfax W.T. Woodson (Va.) in the state semifinal game, the Warhawks would meet Virginia Beach Floyd Kellam (Va.) in the state title match.

The encounter would not be easy. The Warhawks would have to travel down to Virginia Beach for the game, but Holman, only two days from giving birth to son Rian, would not be making the trip. In addition, the town of Vienna wouldn’t be coming out to the game like it normally would because the school’s football team was playing in the state semifinals that day.

The odds should have been stacked against James Madison maintaining a shutout, much less winning the game.

But, in this pandemic year, there was an extra factor: technology. Holman watched the Virginia High School League state final through the NFHS Network, a digital channel run by the National Federation of State High School Associations. During quarter and halftime breaks, she connected with assistant coaches Noelle Anderson and Rachel Cooke by video call.

Satterfield would score in the 45th minute to give the Warhawks their first state championship in field hockey, and in the process, made history.


ALSO CONSIDERED:

Chantal Ayers, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.)
Christina Elisio, Radnor Archbishop Carroll (Pa.)
Jodi Hollamon, Delmar (Del.)
Alex Marshall, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
Debra McMullen, East Greenwich (R.I.)
Lissa Opolsky, New Tripoli Northwestern Lehigh (Pa.)
Tara Rose, Cincinnati Indian Hill (Ohio)
Courtney Spleen, San Diego Torrey Pines (Calif.)
Gina Welling, Northport (N.Y.)