At McMaster, there are several club teams that students can join and women’s field hockey is one of them. Though one thing that makes it unique is that they have been participating in the Ontario University Athletics championship for two years. The OUA outdoor field hockey has an open style championship so clubs like McMaster, who do not participate in the regular season, are welcomed to play.
Their outdoor season runs from the end of August to end of October, and their indoor season runs from November to March. During these seasons, they play in exhibition games, tournaments and invitationals like the Big Apple Tournament held in Pennsylvania.
For co-captain Morgan Renkema this structure style is something that makes field hockey at McMaster really special.
“I’ve been on the team for five years and when I started, we just played exhibition games and weekend tournaments,” said Renkema. “So now being able to play in the OUA championships is something that adds an extra competitive edge to it. Field hockey is appealing to a lot of women because it is not like a full-time varsity commitment but we get to play with more competition.”
The fifth-year athlete and former soccer player first started playing field hockey in the eighth grade when she wanted to try something new.
“When I went to high school I decided to join the varsity team and to play more competitively,” said Renkema. “I always played soccer my entire life, but to me, field hockey was something I discovered on my own and it felt as if it was unique, so I started to play outside of school in a club team in tenth grade.”
When she came to McMaster she decided to try out for field hockey rather than her first love soccer because she wasn’t sure if she was ready to be a varsity soccer player at the university level — in addition to the fact that she had really fallen in love with field hockey.
“When I joined, I never really expected it to be where it is today,” said Renkema. “Everyone always wanted us to be an OUA team and now we’re halfway there. So it’s been really nice to see the progress over the years.”
Though the team has been able to make a lot of progress structurally, this year has been a really big rebuilding year for the program. With a lot of senior players graduating at the conclusion of last season, this year’s team consisted of a lot of first-year players.
“On paper its hard to say that we did well because we did end up losing all of our games but we are playing against teams that have more experience than us,” said Renkema. “During last year’s OUA championship, we ended up tying two of our games and going into shootout, where we unfortunately lost both. But we got a lot of positive feedback from that because no one was expecting us to actually be able to compete.”
For the team’s indoor season, they play in the premier division of an indoor league in Waterloo along with seven other teams. This year, they managed to finish in fifth place, making the playoffs but falling short during the March 10 weekend.
“In our first game, we managed to keep the score tied 1-1 for the majority of the game but in the last few minutes they managed to score,” said Renkema. “We went on to win one more game but lost 4-3 to a team that we were down 3-0 to.”
Even though they are not performing at the level they would like to be at, it has only been two years since they began playing at the OUA Championships and Renkema believes that in time they can really begin to succeed.
“We have a lot of good new talent and even though this is my last year playing I think we have a lot of potential going forward,” said Renkema. “First-year goalies Madeline Waybill and Jessica Kostuch have shown a lot of improvement and should be able to help our team continue to grow.”
As Renkema looks back at her five years as a Marauder, one thing she knows for sure is that she does not regret choosing to play field hockey over soccer in her first year.
“We’ve come a long way since I’ve started and really have been able to make a name for ourselves,” said Renkema. “I know it may not be ideal for a lot of people being in between [an OUA team and club] but I really enjoy that nature of it. Also we have a special bond as a team and I have been able to make a lot of close friends because of it over the years.”
As she prepares to graduate and leave McMaster women’s field hockey behind, the lessons she learned from it will remain.
“The one thing I will take away from my time as a field hockey player at McMaster is to be persistent,” said Renkema. “We’ve heard ‘no’ a lot, but we always kept going”
Understanding the unique nature of their team and using it as a reason to continue to improve and grow as a club in the McMaster athletics community is what the women on the team have excelled at doing. It is this persistence that has allowed them to be recognized by the OUA and that will continue to take them far for years to come.