Varsity Letter: For Loudoun schools, no field hockey teams
They all seem to be having a good time, the 20 or so girls wielding field hockey sticks on a tree-lined field tucked far behind the Loudoun County campus of Northern Virginia Community College. It's a pleasant fall evening, and the distant hum of cars on Route 7 provides a soothing soundtrack as the players work on their skills.
At the same time, despite the wooded setting and upbeat chatter, it's hard not to feel a little sorry for them.
Most of the girls attend high schools in Loudoun County, which does not offer their sport of choice. The Loudoun Field Hockey Association is their only outlet. They practice once a week on a field about half the regulation size, while another high school group meets at a site in the western part of the county.
There is no daily contact, no peer recognition and no opportunity to represent their schools in competition. Just a taste of a sport, in an isolated setting, that they wish they could play with their classmates like girls in every other major suburban Washington school jurisdiction but Prince George's County. Meantime, Virginia and Maryland between them will crown six state field hockey champions Saturday.
"It really bugs me," said Potomac Falls junior Brenna Ortt, who estimates that 50 girls at her school are interested in playing field hockey. "When I say I play field hockey, [classmates] think it's nothing because it's not a school sport."
The field hockey association hopes that it will be soon, initially with self-funded club programs that morph into full-fledged high school teams, a path similar to the one lacrosse took in the county several years back.
"I've been trying since my freshman year to get it," said Broad Run senior Jasmine Zarou, sporting a T-shirt from her other Spartans sport, lacrosse. "I think it would be really cool [to say]: 'I play Broad Run field hockey.' "
Fairfax County schools offer not only varsity field hockey but also junior varsity, and about half have self-funded freshman club teams. "It's booming in most areas of the county," said Cindy Hook, in her 31st year coaching the sport at Annandale.
Field hockey also is thriving in Montgomery County, said Bethesda-Chevy Chase Coach Amy Wood, whose teams have won or shared 10 state titles. "More kids are playing, and a lot more teams are better," she said.
The lack of high school field hockey in Loudoun is even more pronounced for students at Stone Bridge. It is a member of the 30-school Northern Region, with schools from Fairfax, Arlington County and Alexandria, and is the only one to not offer field hockey.
That has made it a double whammy for Stone Bridge senior Kelly Behrens, because not only does her school compete in a district and region that have field hockey, her former school, Watkins Mill in Montgomery County, offers the sport.
She didn't know that Loudoun didn't have it until her family had moved.