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Thanking Miami, thanking a sport

Emily Simanskis, The Miami Student

The bright green turf of the field hockey complex will never again know Geagy Pritchard's challenging stance when an opponent tries to pass the ball into play. It will no longer be disrupted by Kelsi White's acceleration to get between an opponent and the goal that is protected by Alysa Xavier. It will never again cater to Carla Romagosa's breakout speed or Megan Moody's careful positioning.

On a Saturday afternoon too warm for late October, Miami University's field hockey team's six seniors said goodbye to the field they've known for the past four years. In a short ceremony before the playing of the national anthem, the women were accompanied by parents and the two international players were escorted by an assistant coach and friends as their names were announced and applause was awarded.

The game was played like many others, with the team's trademark determination and intensity apparent in the battle against Ohio University, a conference and instate rival. But there seemed to be an added level of desperation from the players--more words of encouragement could be heard coming from the bench, more bodies were sacrificed to make plays, and the seniors put their hearts into a game that has given them so much.

For Kelsi White, her involvement with the sport began as an accident. Her mom was too late to sign her up for soccer, but insisted Kelsi stay active when going into middle school. White, a Louisville, Kentucky native, didn't immediately like the sport and it took her a little while before she prioritized field hockey over other athletic commitments.

Club teams turned into travel teams. and that eventually led to her being a part of the Olympic development team which then led her to Miami, when the development team had a practice at the complex during her freshman year of high school.

"I just remember stepping on campus and just feeling at home and I remember I turned to my dad and I said, 'I could see myself here,'" White said. "It's just kind of how luck ended up."

White considers herself very lucky for all that the program has taught her and the opportunities it has given her. She credits Miami with teaching her how to balance academic and athletic life and to not limit herself by sticking to a single goal. Miami led her to work with the Mid-American Conference and pass initiatives about mental health, then work with the NCAA and then be nominated by the school for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

For all the things Miami will leave with her, White looked to express her gratitude in the 43 minutes she spent playing on Saturday as a back, defending her team's lead and potential for post season success, contributing to the legacy she wants to leave behind.

"Everyone wants to build on the legacy of the previous years and keep moving forward and I think that it's something that our class wants, but I think we've seen the program evolve even over the past four years we've been here and I think what I want to see is that they're able to continue that," White said. "No matter where we end up this year, how far we get in the tournament or NCAAs, hopefully, just to think that we kind of laid the groundwork so that they can keep building."

Geagy Pritchard dedicated her 45 minutes of playing time to scoring two goals and, maybe it was the uncharacteristically warm air that led to added relief after goals were scored, the post-goal celebrations seemed to be brighter, celebratory jumps were higher and the congratulations among those on the field seemed to be a little louder than normal.

Also having played soccer, Pritchard began to play field hockey as an experiment--her town was forming a recreational league and she decided to try the sport in the third grade. She first met Inako Puzo at a field hockey camp before he was the head coach at Miami and once he began coaching the RedHawks, she was sold on Miami.

The team on and off the field has led to Pritchard seeing opportunities for growth, not only professionally, but individually. When asked what her four years at Miami taught her, she said "A lot of different things. It's taught me not only skills on the field, but also how to be a better citizen, a better teammate, player, friend and everything like that. It's shaped me to be the best version of myself and I hope that I can keep going up and changing because what the coaches did for me is something I want to take advantage of."

Both Pritchard and White warn freshmen to simultaneously not take anything for granted and take every opportunity available to them. Pritchard echoed White's sentiment about legacy and what she wants to leave with the team: "I guess just my memory," she said, pausing, then continues. "It's not like I'm dying," she finished, laughing.

The final minutes of the game ticked down Saturday and the Miami fans, mostly parents but with a larger student turnout than normal, held their breath in hopes that senior Alysa Xavier could earn the 6-0 shutout win and their daughters could forever remember a dominant senior day.

Pritchard and Megan Moody were substituted into the game for the last two minutes to join White, Xavier and Carla Romagosa for a few more moments on their home turf.

In the background, a bright pink senior sign is held by Carla's old roommate, as Pritchard is unforgiving when communicating in a post-game interview that, though it was her last game on Miami's field, it isn't the team's last game of the season, saying "we're not going to be done yet."

With little opportunity in America for women to play field hockey after college, the senior RedHawks look to make the most out of their upcoming tournament play thanks to their win on Saturday.

"It's hard. Four years--you're tired by the end of it and it's a struggle but, at the same time, you don't want to leave the sport that you've grown up with, it's definitely a bittersweet feeling," White said. "We're excited, heading towards the end, heading into the tournament and all the success and opportunities we have with that but at the same time, you're entering the last stage of your career. It's kind of a mixture of emotions right now."