Zoe Lydon going for the ball.

Evanston Township High School recently added a girls’ field hockey team to its wide variety of club sports and extracurricular activities offered at the school thanks in part to the efforts of three current students.

“The club got started because three students, Marnie O’Malley, Aubrey O’Neil, and Sarah Skidmore, worked with both the athletics department and the student activities department to bring field hockey on as a club sport,” explained head coach Julia Millon. “Since we did not know how much interest there was surrounding the sport, it was a great way to break into the field hockey scene in Illinois and spread the word about the sport here in Evanston.”

Since this was the program’s first year, the team was restricted to playing as a club sport and not as an official sport, but that is the ultimate goal. “We are not an official team sport quite yet; we are still working through those official steps,” said Coach Millon. “Right now, the main concern is finding field space on campus for practices and games.”

Indeed. During their inaugural season, the Wildkits were forced to play all of their games outside Evanston, but Coach Millon hopes to have that issue resolved in the near future. “Right now, we are working closely with the athletics department to see what can be done about that. While I cannot give a definite answer at the moment,[a home field] is something that we would obviously like to have in the future.”

However, despite having to play all games away, Coach Millon indicated there was significant interest in the program this season. “There [was] so much fan and student support this season. Since all of our games were away, it was hard to draw a large fan base to cheer us on, but parents gladly filled that role,” said the Coach. “Our last two games, against New Trier and Loyola, brought so many students out, which was a great feeling, both for me as a coach and for the players.”

As to the team’s performance on the field, the Kits finished their first season with a record of 2-10 with victories coming against Stevenson and Naperville North. Regarding her team’s performance this season, the Coach was very pleased with the team’s play and the progress they made. “Overall, I feel like the team did an amazing job. When we first started the team, we had extremely low expectations, since hardly any of these girls had played before and we had such little practice time,” she said.

“However, these girls blew our expectations out of the water. They took to the stick skills so quickly, and were very coachable on the field and on the sidelines. Everyone had told us that we were not going to win a single game this season, but in the end, we ended up winning two games, which just added to the amazing season we [had],” the Coach said. “Aside from the technical aspects and games, these girls are some of the most driven athletes and students that I have had the pleasure of coaching. They are always positive and wanting to play more, regardless of how tired they [were] or how badly we [were] losing by. They are in it for the fun of the game, which makes my job as coach that much more enjoyable.”

Looking ahead to next season, Coach Millon feels the keys to success will be for members of the team to play in the offseason to gain more experience, build their skills and to become more familiar with the game by simply observing it.

“I really think that getting out there and playing in the offseason is the key. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where there are clubs and clinics to play in and attend, and doing anything possible to build our skills in the offseason is going to help tremendously come next fall,” said Coach Millon. “Also, just watching more field hockey will help the players understand the game that much more. With one of the best Division I field hockey programs in the nation right down the street at Northwestern, it is so easy to gain exposure to top-level field hockey.” The Coach continued, “Lastly, we really want to work on reaching out to current middle- schoolers and getting them involved in field hockey. We had very few freshmen sign up this year, and we would really like to increase the number of freshmen on the team next year.”

The Coach added, “We are a young team with a lot of promise, and given the strong base that we created this season, we are so excited to see what next season holds.”