Columbia HS field hockey team enjoys stellar season

Columbia HS varsity team
CHS captains with head coach Stephanie Rivera
CHS seniors

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Columbia High School field hockey team, under first-year head coach Stephanie Rivera, made new marks in its program’s history. For the first time in more than  20 years, the team reached double-digit wins for the season. Prior to this year, the last time the program had more than eight wins was in 1997. Currently the girls have a winning record of 10-9-1. 

It is no doubt that the team made remarkable strides this season which begs the question–what made this year so different?  According to senior captain, Annie Paternak, she said that what made this year unlike any other was “the family we are off the field…we are all so close so it made the chemistry on the field so natural.” Similarly, their other senior captain, Julia Vroman, stated that her favorite part of the season was the team aspect. She shared that unlike previous years, “this year we have all become incredibly close. We are honestly more like a family than a team.” And it wasn’t just the seniors who felt this level of friendship. Junior Natalia Zacker shared that a lot of the chemistry was a result of the seniors who led the entire team. She said that the seniors reminded the entire team regardless of grade that they were all meant to be on this team together. 

This level of camaraderie was made evident in the way they performed throughout the season, especially against tougher components. Suzanne Hassler, parent of senior Hudson Hassler, shared the girls played several extremely competitive games where they may not have come out as winners in score, but they surprised their opponents. One game that stood out to her was during the state sectional tournament quarterfinals against Morristown. This team previously beat Columbia, 8-0, two years in a row. However she said that “this year, our girls scored two goals before their opponent got on the board. They didn’t give up at all and the final score of that game is not indicative of the battle they fought.” She finished her sentiment by stating her favorite moments can be summed up by “seeing the love the girls share when a teammate scores or makes a great play. The support they have shown each other is so special and endearing.”

In addition to the team dynamic, there was another change that made this season a little different. Rivera took over as the new head coach with assistant coach, Marissa Buzar. Although this was Rivera’s first time as a head coach, her coaching style received a positive response from both parents and players alike. Danna Ethan, parent of senior Julia Ethan, said that, “Coach Rivera’s coaching style is far beyond what’s expected from adults in this role. She has devoted just as much time to developing character, communication skills, self-love, and trust as she does to running plays and stick skills. The girls’ belief in themselves and support for each other was exciting to see on the field and in their wins.”  Zacker echoed that sentiment when she shared that by no means was the success this season easy, but she felt that motivation “came from each other, our parents, and most importantly our coaches. They used their stories to give us dedication to why it is important to be role models on and off the field which they made sure we knew was a big part of being on the field hockey team for Columbia High School.”

As the season comes to an end, many of the girls hope that people know that the success of this season was not something that came easy. Rather that it was something they had to work tirelessly for. Junior Ruby Sigmund stated that they knew that Columbia High School did not have the reputation of being a strong field hockey team. But she said that regardless, “We overcame this by proving that we are capable of competing with tough competitive teams and winning against teams that in years prior had failed to beat or even score on.” Senior captains Alice Condry-Power and Julia Erickson both reiterated the same thoughts. Condry-Power said she hopes people realize that they worked extremely hard to get to where they are, and Erickson emphasized that “we put in a lot of effort during countless hours of practice and worked as a team to overcome all of the challenges we faced.”

Coach Rivera couldn’t agree more. “I could not ask for a better group of girls to spend my first year coaching with. I am forever so proud of these girls, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to not only work with them, but to have my life changed by them. Their resilience moved me to no end–not once did these girls sulk after a loss. We picked our heads up and knew that our biggest losses were our biggest learning opportunities to make us even better–which it did. They never gave up and they never settled which helped them have such a memorable season.” Rivera said. 

“These girls mark a pivotal turning point in Columbia High School field hockey. They have left their mark on this program’s history and have created a whole new reputation for this program. Even though we’ll be losing 11 seniors, they have made it known that we are a team to look out for next season. I’ve seen the high level of skill, passion, and heart that is already apparent at the Freshmen and JV level–especially under the leadership of my freshmen and JV coaches Katie Wieboldt and Becca  Winkler–and I am confident that our new varsity members are going to enthusiastically rise to the occasion to continue building a new legacy. I just can’t wait to see what comes next.”

Varsity Roster

  • Alice Condry-Power
  • Jasmine Dallison
  • Julia Erickson 
  • Julia Ethan
  • Lena Finnamore
  • Sophie Fogelson 
  • Mariana Fulweiler
  • Hudson Hassler
  • Annie Pasternak
  • Sofie Paternite
  • Lila Price
  • Emma Reininga
  • Juli Rufolo
  • Ruby Sigmund
  • Lena Skagerlind
  • Lily Sullivan
  • Katherine Turi
  • Julia  Vroman
  • Sydney Waldon 
  • Natalia Zacker