A veteran Dino team attempts to win McCrae Cup for the first time in history on home turf
The last time the Calgary Dinos hosted the CIS Women's field hockey championship, Mariah Carey and Boys II Men ruled the radio waves, while Lion King made its first 2D appearance on the big screen.
1994 seems a long time ago for some, but for the past 35 odd years the Calgary Dinos have struggled with top universities in the Canada West conference, vying for the McCrae Cup — a championship never won by the U of C women's field hockey team.
It's a dream that head coach Jenn Swagar plans on making a reality when the Dinos host the championship again in early November.
"We are focused, and the goal is to win," Swagar said. "We like to play on our turf because it's fast. We are comfortable there, we like the speed of the game — it's familiar."
"I think it has been a big build, and we've done a lot to prep both strength and conditioning wise," Swagar said. "Traveling to Argentina last year was all in preparation in making it to nationals, and preforming in nationals."
"It was definitely a highlight of my career," she said. "I was so glad I got the opportunity to compete at that level. The experience was satisfying, and was one that brought our team really close together."
Assistant coach Jeremiah Barnert added that even with a few key contributors falling to illness in the past weeks, the Dinos have prevailed by bolstering their strategy in staying focused and controlling external factors such as nutrition, student stress, physical and psychological aspects.
"The girls are definitely focused," he said. "Look at the number of veterans we have on this team — they're ready to go. They know what they need to do and they know it's just a matter of going out and doing it."
And Barnert, who has coached the team closely for the past five years, said he believes the Dinos have a real opportunity to compete on a high level at this year's tournament.
"They are confident. They are prepped, and prepared for the ultimate goal of winning nationals," he said. "They are really focused on the process more than I'd say the outcome, which is always positive when dealing with athletes."
He said that with hosting nationals comes great responsibility, so coaching staff planned to deal with all possible outcomes this season.
"Last year we didn't qualify for nationals, and this year we get an automatic birth," Barnert said. But this year the Dinos have "qualified on our own terms, and that is a big goal the girls had."
One of these go-getters, fifth year goalkeeper Stephanie Petrowitsch, 22, has had a "bounce-back" season, Barnert said. And with Petrowitsch being a solid netminder to rely on, the team can focus on their individual efforts he said.
Petrowitsch admits she is incredibly excited that the Dinos have a real chance to redeem themselves after missing last year's nationals by a single point.
"Our whole five years comes down to this tournament that we get to play together. I think we are feeling good under the pressure and we are going use that pressure to play our best."
Barnert said this is a great opportunity for the community to come out and see competitive field hockey, especially if they've never seen the game before. It's a real chance to see "the highest level of field hockey you'll ever see in Canada."
The CIS Women's Field Hockey Championship runs Nov 3 to 6 at Hawkings Field at the University of Calgary.
- By SHARDAY L. ISAAC