The McLean High girls’ field hockey team, under first year head coach Summer Hardman, is off to a terrific 6-1-1 start this season.
Two of the Highlanders’ wins came a couple of weeks ago at the 14th annual Herndon Tournament. There, in first day action, McLean won games over Mount Vernon and Eastern View (Culpepper). The second day of the tournament was postponed due to rainy weather conditions. The re-scheduled make-up date is this Saturday. McLean will meet Lake Braddock in its first game of the day. The Highlanders’ second opponent will be determined based on the outcome of other games. Saturday’s tournament action is set to begin at 8 a.m. at Herndon High School. The tournament finals will take place later in the day at 1 p.m.
But McLean’s biggest game this week will be on Friday afternoon when the Highlanders host cross-town and Liberty District rival Langley at 4. Hardman, who only moved to the Northern Virginia area from Toledo, Ohio in June, has heard enough about the Highlanders-Saxons’ rivalry to gain an idea of its importance. She called it the biggest game of the regular season for her team.
Hardman knows all about big games. In her playing days, she was part of a high school team in Ohio that captured two state titles. Later, she played the sport at James Madison University and Ohio University. The past six years, she coached a high school JV team in her home state before coming to Virginia.
Hardman said she has been received with open arms by her new McLean players.
"I took the job here because I like the atmosphere and the group of girls here," said Hardman, who teaches health and physical education at McLean.
<b>ONE OF THE TEAM’S</b> best early season showings this season came in a 3-3 tie against visiting Chantilly, a game that went into two overtimes before being called on account of darkness. A year ago, Chantilly easily handled the Highlanders by a 5-0 score. So getting the deadlock against the Chargers was quite an accomplishment.
In other games this season, McLean has beaten non-district opponents Herndon and Yorktown, the latter win coming in overtime.
Last year, McLean finished with a losing record. The team’s biggest problem, perhaps, was its struggle to score goals. For the ’07 season, the Highlanders found the net just 14 times. This season, through just eight games, McLean has scored 24 times. Hardman said her team came up with a goal to score 50 goals this fall. At about the halfway point of the season, the Highlanders are on track to accomplish that feat.
Two of the team’s better offensive players are junior center midfielder Elisa Enriquez-Hesles and junior right midfielder Caitlin Baker, the team’s leading scorer.
Hardman calls Enriquez-Hesles the "glue of the team."
And of Baker’s game, Hardman said she has a great feel for the game.
"She’s a natural athlete who just has a knack for the ball," said Hardman. "She has one of the hardest hits of the ball. She’s just a leader on the field, a great defender and offensive player. Elisa [Enrique-Hesles] is the same way. She’s very good with the ball."
Two forwards who have given the Highlanders a nice spark up front are sophomores Jamie Bell and Kristina Bettner. And McLean has received solid play in the net from junior goalie Sarah Park.
"She’s really, from the beginning, come on very strong," said Hardman, of her goal tender. "She’s been very good for us and had a number of saves."
The Highlanders’ three team tri-captains are Enrique-Hesles, and senior defensive players Annie Ruehlin and Molly Welch.