Field hockey finishes second in state tournament

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OPRF field hockey placed second in the Illinois high school field hockey tournament, finishing the season with a 14-3-1 record.

This unprecedented success of the team is proving not to be a mere coincidence but rather a result of years building the program. Head coach Kristin Wirtz has held her position for four years and has been a part of the program for six. “This is definitely the strongest team I’ve coached so far,” Wirtz said.

A large part of this success comes from the 16 seniors on the team, many of whom have been playing together before high school in club field hockey.

Wirtz said it was an intentional choice to incorporate a lot of underclassmen on the team two years ago when the current seniors were sophomores. “We really wanted to build it into the legacy that OPRF has for field hockey,” Wirtz said. She said that in the past, OPRF had been one of the best teams in the state along with New Trier and Lake Forest, but had declined.

Senior captain Tiala Ortega, who committed to Depauw University for field hockey, has seen the program’s return to the top rankings in the state. “We’ve been climbing the ladder and we’ve finally reached the top,” she said.

Confidence and a positive mindset have proven to be a recurring theme throughout the team’s season. Hailey Nowak, another senior captain, describes Wirtz’s efforts to unite the team. “Halfway through the season we had a talk, and we decided we were going to be more positive … it really helped,” Nowak said.

“What’s made the biggest change is (high) confidence,” Wirtz said. She said that “believing that they can win every game, and competing for every game” has been an improvement from years past.

The captains “have stepped up as leaders to create a positive environment,” Ortega said. She said they pick each other up and support each other, especially when things get difficult.

On the field, the team is even more connected and knows how to play together.

“We’ve improved (our) field awareness and spacing. These athletes really know the field well, and they connect really well,” Wirtz said.

On Sept. 23, OPRF defeated Lake Forest, ranked No. 1 in the state. Junior Katie Golla said winning against Lake Forest showed “how well (they) could connect as a team,” and boosted confidence.

“It just felt awesome (to feel like) we have a shot at state this year,” Nowak said about the Lake Forest win.

Last year’s COVID-19 restrictions resulted in a shortened season and no state tournament. Golla said last year the team “didn’t have the chance to bring (their success) to state.” She believes this wasted potential set their team to be more focused on a state run.

Nowak says the team has been practicing more toward the ultimate goal of winning state. “We do the extra stuff: staying a little after or going on team runs,” Nowak said.

This season, more students and fans are able to show up compared to last year with COVID-19 restrictions. “That’s been really great, to have the school on our side and everyone cheering. It really hypes us up,” Ortega said.

During their second playoff game OPRF faced off against Glenbard West. Despite trailing 1-0 at halftime, the team rallied to win the game 2-1.

“We were able to come back due to the energy the team brought during the second half of the game,” said senior captain Audrey Glore. “I think we really showed our perseverance and our ability to work together under the pressure of being a goal down.”

With that victory, OPRF became one of the final four teams remaining in the state tournament.

The Huskies play their semifinal game against Lake Forest Oct. 28. Updates on the semifinals and final will be posted on trapezeonline.com and @oprftrapeze on Instagram.

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