June 17, 2013
For the last couple months, University of Michigan assistant field hockey coach Lucia Belassi White had been actively seeking out pick-up games, regularly recruiting friends, family and fellow athletic department employees to join her at Ocker Field for a couple hours after work.
Her motives were twofold. With the lighter summer schedule and warmer weather, it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy some collective time outdoors. Personally, Belassi White, an All-American during her U-M career (2004-07), was in training, working to get herself back into competition mode.
Last weekend, Belassi White participated in the inaugural Harrow Cup, a national post-collegiate field hockey tournament in Philadelphia, Pa., with a $10,000 cash prize awarded to the winning team. The brainchild of Olympian Rachel Dawson [and older sister of former Wolverine Hannah (2008-11)], the Harrow Cup's goal was to provide the underserved post-collegiate market a competitive and exciting opportunity to play.
In February, more than 300 athletes from 99 different universities, ranging in age from 22 to 40, entered the Harrow Cup player pool, and in March, 144 athletes from that group were drafted into eight teams. Among the participating players were former All-Americans, national champions, Olympians and collegiate, club and high school coaches.
"I think, with the draft, the captains pick people based on their past accomplishments, their friendships, or people they've heard about from others," said Belassi White. "So I think everyone was in the same boat that no one really knew more than about three people on their team. I thought my captain did a really good job of picking a great team that we could be competitive, and have a realistic goal of reaching the finals."
Belassi White's team, the Titans, fell just short, taking third place in the competition with a 2-1-1 record. Unable to practice together before the tournament due to a heavy and inconvenient rainstorm, the team figured it out as they went along. And while Belassi White admits they probably could have benefitted from a little more fitness, the Titans took advantage of talent, team chemistry and hard work to boast a successful weekend.
"We just went out every day and tried our best to win," said Belassi White. "It was funny to see the different vibes from different teams. There was one team that was super serious, shied away from the social activities so they could be in their full potential the next morning. But most of the other teams were there to have a great time, play some very competitive hockey and get together with friends I hadn't seen in a long time."
Just a weeks prior to the Harrow Cup, which also featured former Wolverine Jessica [Rose] Shellenberger (1999-2002), Belassi White had reunited with several former teammates -- and other Wolverine alums -- to play in the Cal Cup in Moorpark, Calif. Organized by Steph Hoyer (2005-08) and Mary Fox (2003-06), the predominantly-Michigan team also featured Katie Adams (2008-10), Christi Barwick (2008-11), Kristi Gannon (2000-03), Eleanor Martin (2004-06), Katie Moyneur (2001-04), Molly Powers (1999-2002), Meredith Way (2007-10) and Alex Zeringue (2006-09), and like Belassi White's Harrow Cup squad, the team took third place.
"It's like a curse -- the curse of third place," said Belassi White. "We lost in the semifinals in a shootout. None of us had ever played with shootouts. So, we were all disappointed, but it was so much fun. Everyone was out there to have a good time -- and to win. We're all former Michigan players, so we're all super-uber competitive. We actually ended up doing pretty well. Now we're all hoping to come back next year, grow the group and make it a tradition of it."
Much of the excitement around these events, as well as the upcoming 4 Goals Cup in July, is the growing prospect of and support for a post-collegiate field hockey league.
"There are a handful of states which have a regular league, but a lot of post-college athletes don't have an opportunity to play," said Belassi White. "There's been talk for years about forming a league, but it never actually happens. So, I think that with the sponsorship of Harrow, it was pretty much all that was needed to actually turn those words into actions. Hopefully, it will be the start to a lot more tournaments like it. Obviously the prize money is nice, but people just want to play. They want to be in that competitive environment again like we used to in college and just have fun and enjoy the sport."
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423