UVic women claim national field hockey crown in sweep of York

It took a decade to get it, but coach Lynne Beecroft has her 12th U Sports national title in her 35 seasons at the helm of the University of Victoria Vikes women’s field-hockey team.

The Vikes won their first national crown since 2008 with a 3-1 victory over the York University Lions on Saturday in Toronto to sweep the best-of-three U Sports final series 2-0.

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“It’s been a long time,” said Beecroft.

But well worth the decade wait.

“We were a team and not a bunch of individuals,” said Beecroft.

It’s that approach that has helped the UVic program produce Olympians Deb Whitten, Rochelle Low, Laurelee Kopeck, Milena Gaiga and other national-team players such as Ali Lee, Kathleen Leahy, Kaitlyn Williams and Danielle Hennig.

Now comes the new generation.

“We had seven rookies and five fifth-year players,” noted Beecroft, herself a Vikes alumnus and Olympian.

“The veterans were the calming influence while the rookies stepped up and scored four of our five goals in the national final. The next four years are going to be really exciting.”

Vikes rookie and junior national team player Erin Dawson scored twice in the 2-1 victory on Friday in Game 1 with rookies Cara Butler and Stefanie Sajko scoring in Game 2, along with fifth-year player Lindsay Cole. Third-year Emily Wong of UVic was named MVP of the national final series.

The final game of their varsity careers was a memorable one for graduating fifth-year Vikes Cole, Kristina Walters-Shumka, Jenna Dhillon, Stefanie Langkammer and Delaney Booker.

“We had a great mix of senior leadership and rookies,” said Beecroft.

Among the latter is Vikes freshman striker Samantha McCrory, who has already earned her first cap for Canada, and could be heard from in qualifying play on the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Among the UVic youth movement is sophomore defender Anna Mollenhauer, the St. Michaels University School graduate who was named both Canada West and U Sports player of the year for 2018. She continues a Vikes lineage as the daughter of former UVic legend and 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympian Nancy Mollenhauer.

Another familial connection is Vikes freshman defender Judy Cristante, whose mother, Kolette, played for the 1987 and 1989 national champion UVic teams.

Beecroft is attuned to the full-circle feel of her program. She brought her previous Vikes national championship team together for a 10-year reunion for UVic’s final regular-season home game this season. There was a message she wanted the 2008 players to impart to her current group: “The 2008 players know it’s not about winning a championship, it’s about the joy of playing and still being friends, and knowing you will walk with each other forever.”

Even though a decade separates them, the 2008 and 2018 UVic teams now walk as national champions, along with 10 other Vikes teams. UVic’s 12 national championships is second only to UBC’s 19 as this province is the epicentre of field hockey in Canada.

Yet, a successful coach never rests.

“We’ll be scouting the B.C. high school AA and AAA championships next week,” said Beecroft, who is always looking ahead.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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