Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald King's Fork senior mid-fielder Kana Hashigami participates in a pre-season practice on Thursday at King's Fork High School. Lady Bulldogs head coach Courtney Van der Linden praised Hashigami for her versatility and expects her to be a leader on the team like she was last year.
Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald
King's Fork senior mid-fielder Kana Hashigami participates in a pre-season practice on Thursday at King's Fork High School. Lady Bulldogs head coach Courtney Van der Linden praised Hashigami for her versatility and expects her to be a leader on the team like she was last year.

Lady Bulldogs expect improvement

Published 9:36pm Saturday, August 24, 2013

King’s Fork High School field hockey coach Courtney Van der Linden saw the team meet her goal of winning four games last year. Now, she and the team are looking for more.

Van der Linden, who played at Lakeland High School under coach Tara Worley, came to King’s Fork last year and helped change the culture of the field hockey team.

“I think that they have finally seen that they are capable of winning, which is nice, because I think that’s something that kind of held them up last year,” she said. “The mentality that they’d always had was, ‘We’re not a good team. We’re going to lose.’ When they got the wins, they felt great.”

The Lady Bulldogs went 4-10 overall and 1-8 in the Southeastern District.

Van der Linden hopes to improve on that record this year — in part, because several of last year’s losses came in close games against talented teams. She described them as “a lot of 1-0 scores, just really painful games that we definitely should have won.”

She said she pointed this out to her players, and “I think after that, they kind of saw that they had more ability than they maybe thought that they did.”

Last season’s developments have led to significant changes since then.

“We did some off-season stuff,” Van der Linden said. “We went to camps for the first time.”

Last year, none of the Lady Bulldogs played field hockey outside of school.

“I have a couple girls playing on a travel team now,” Van der Linden said.

Some of the girls even want to pursue field hockey in college.

One of those with higher goals now is senior mid-fielder Kana Hashigami. She will serve as a team captain, like she did last year. Though she is primarily a midfielder, Van der Linden said, “She’s one of those players that if I wanted to, I’d pretty much put anywhere.”

Hashigami hopes to be a leader and an encouragement to her teammates.

“Sometimes you get down during a game and that’s a big thing when playing field hockey,” she said. “You’ve just got to stay positive, and I definitely want to help with that.”

Junior Rachel Gist has experience at midfield and also hopes to get recruited for college field hockey.

Van der Linden praised her: “She’s grown so much already. She was a skilled player last year.”

Gist also brings leadership and a toughness that is vital in a true field hockey player.

“I hope that she can rub off on some players,” Van der Linden said. “They definitely look to her for advice. They look to her for level-headedness and positivity.”

An up-and-comer whom Van der Linden highlighted is junior Randi Fiel.

The coach said, “She couldn’t consistently dribble down the field last year without hitting her feet, and now she’s pretty much like (a) speed demon, score-crazy forward.”

She hopes Fiel will help provide much-needed offense and aid the team in overcoming its biggest obstacle right now.

“We’re struggling for some odd reason making connections and finishing, and that was the problem last year too,” Van der Linden said.

Both coach and players feel good about the realignment that puts King’s Fork in a conference and region against only schools of like size this year.

“I think it’ll be more on the positive side for us,” Hashigami said. “It will help us.”

Van der Linden conservatively stated her goal as reaching eight wins this season.

The Lady Bulldogs open the season on the road against Deep Creek High School on Monday.

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