The girls from Clearview High are back on the pitch

If the guiding minds of high school sport are competition, camaraderie and the common goal, the 2020-21 school year has brought them cha...


If the guiding minds of high school sport are competition, camaraderie and the common goal, the 2020-21 school year has brought them challenges. Close-knit teams, used to the physical camaraderie of the locker room or caucus, had to keep their social distances; coaches, used to the normal pattern of practices and games, found themselves canceling sessions, posting practices online, and doing their best to send encouraging emails to their players. In some cases, entire seasons have been canceled.

These disruptions hit many teams hard, but they created unique frustration for those who had decisive seasons the year before. This was the case for the Clearview Regional High School girls’ field hockey team in Mullica Hill, NJ. In 2019, they won a state championship, crowning more than a decade of growth under coach Britney Ewan, a former Millville High School midfielder just 30 minutes south of Mullica Hill. . When Ewan (bottom center) took over the program in 2006, his records have been hovering around 0.500 in recent years. But Ewan got down to work to form a competitive team. In 2012, she hired Jaclyn Guth, who had played for Ewan, as an assistant coach. “We used to be very old-school,” says Guth. “Britney has rethought everything: how you hit the ball, how you pass the ball, how you get on the pitch and work with your teammates. “

In 2017, Ewan and Guth led the team to the school’s first field hockey section title. The state championship two years later led to a Coach of the Year award for Ewan and a festive ride through town, courtesy of the local fire department.

Then came 2020, a relentless opponent who took on the reigning high school state champions across the country. Clearview has made it through much of the season – “I’ve always said every day we have a stick in our hands is a good day,” says Ewan – triumphing over interruptions and injuries and fears of Covid and returning to the playoffs. But in November, the sectional championship game was called off and the 2020 season came to an abrupt end.

Nine months later, in mid-August, the team reunited for another title race. It started with testing. The players seemed nervous but also comforted by the return of an old routine. At the start of the drills, after a mile-long warm-up run around the field, the sight and sound of field hockey balls coming out of a large cooler could be seen as a call to action filled with ‘hope.

Credit…

“My sister was actually a senior for the 2019 team that won the state championship, so being so young and being able to watch this game, and see how they’ve been doing the last few years, has been amazing to me.”

– Mia Clerval, ninth grade

At the start of each season, Coach Ewan gives his players a thick document with the team’s rules and expectations, as well as information on the recruiting process for those hoping to play in college. The first page includes a quote attributed to psychiatrist Karl Menninger: “Loyalty means that I share a common ideal with you and that regardless of minor differences we strive to do so side by side, confident in good faith, trust , the constancy of the other. and affection. “

Ryan Remaly and Darian DeLeo are two returning stars who were freshmen in Clearview’s victorious 2019 season. Last year, due to Covid-19 security protocols, the school’s varsity and junior teams trained separately, blunting the camaraderie and continuity of the program.

DeLeo adds, “It was really difficult.” The social distancing requirements were frustrating. “We weren’t allowed to do things together that could be useful to us, like bonding as a team,” DeLeo says. “It makes the team so much stronger. It makes everything click.

For some players, it was difficult to maintain motivation during the pandemic. “At the start of the season, it was hard to remember my love for field hockey,” says Anna Bruno. Covid has turned its usual preparations upside down, which included playing for his club team and attending college clinics. But after his teammates elected their college captain, a distinction usually reserved for seniors, Bruno was inspired again. “Coming back from a state championship, we had a lot of pressure on ourselves,” she says. “So my goal was to keep things upbeat and fun. “

Among the young players who caught Ewan’s attention was a sophomore named Destiny Joseph, who played on the varsity junior team last year; she was an admiring eighth-grader when Clearview won her state title. The lonely nature of the blockages she’s been through, Joseph says, made it clear to her how much she wanted to excel at field hockey and be part of a championship herself.


Dina Litovsky is a New York-based photographer and a regular contributor to Times Magazine.

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