Sticking with It: Vanessa Sekhon

Each week this season a member of the 2010 University of Michigan field hockey team will provide an insider's view of the squad.

Michigan won the Big Ten Tournament title for the fifth time in school history this past weekend, defeating Ohio State, 2-1, in the championship match. The Wolverines now turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament, as U-M faces Old Dominion Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.

This week, senior Vanessa Sekhon reviews the feeling of winning the Big Ten Tournament title and the work it took to get to where the Wolverines are today.

Friday, Nov. 12

Wow, it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine! That's how I felt about the accomplishments of our team this season thus far. All the hard work, sweat, blood and sacrifice that we committed ourselves to was all worth it because in the end we were champions.

We knew what was on the line and we stepped on the field leaving all of our doubts, fears and worries behind. It was time for us to bring a Big Ten title back to our school. We always did one more sprint, one more shot, one more corner, one more of everything, so we knew we were prepared and had trained harder then any other team. We looked at the block M on each other's jerseys and knew that it was our time. I knew my warriors that surrounded me to the left and right were going to have my back till the last whistle.

As we played a man down for the last 10 minutes of the game against Ohio State, it felt like time couldn't go slower. What should have been seconds felt like forever. Nothing can compare to that moment when those last few seconds ticked down on the clock, and we heard that final buzzer and realized we were all Big Ten tournament and conference champions. As we all sprinted towards each other cheering louder then ever, I couldn't help but think it was all worth it. All those 6 a.m. conditioning workouts, all those extra sprints, a.k.a. "buckeyes," every fireman carry we did with a teammate on our back, everything! All the challenges and adversity we had faced was worth it to be a champion and to feel like how we did at that moment. I have never been so proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.

As a senior, this last season has been amazing and has felt like a dream. Big Ten conference and tournament champions, and now off to NCAAs! It really made me realize what our school is all about and what it means to be a Wolverine. Each and every day, we challenge ourselves in the classroom and on the field to be better. We push each other more then we have ever done before and that's what it takes to be a Michigan Wolverine. I am honored to be able to wear the block M on my jersey and to be apart of this great Michigan tradition.

Michigan can gain at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with a win at Indiana this Saturday (Oct. 30) at 1 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind. The Wolverines fell to Ohio State 2-1 last Friday (Oct. 22) before celebrating Senior Day with a 2-0 win over UC Davis on Sunday (Oct. 24).

This week, junior Bryn Bain talks about what a Big Ten title would mean to the team, part of her pregame routine and what her dream job was when she was eight years old.

Thursday, Oct. 28

Bryn Bain

It might sound crazy, but I've had a stick in my hand since I was eight years old. The town of Berlin, N.J., practically breeds field hockey players -- you would think there was something in the water. But instead of thinking about a field hockey career when I was eight, I was thinking about whether I wanted Malibu Barbie or a new Furby. Some kids grow up having a "dream school" and a "dream job" that their families instilled into their brains, but I wasn't one of those kids; my future occupation ranged from becoming the President of the United States to a cashier at ShopRite because, for some reason, at eight years old it seemed like so much fun to scan hundreds of items. I never thought I would be at one of the most prestigious universities in the country playing field hockey for a team that was nationally ranked and fighting for a Big Ten championship.

For most of us, this is a first. The seniors know what it's like to hold a Big Ten trophy over their heads, but the rest of us don't. They know what it's like to make it to NCAAs, but the rest of us don't, and the seniors know what it feels like to make it to the Elite Eight, but the rest of us don't. I can say that this season is for this year's seniors but that would be excluding the remaining 15 of us who have been resilient in working for that Big Ten trophy, a bid to the NCAAs and an appearance in what is bigger than the Elite Eight, the Final Four. This season is for the 22 of us that are lucky enough to be a part of something special. It is about wanting and striving to be the best, working hard and fighting to be the best and eventually becoming the best.

With a second chance to clinch a co-championship of the Big Ten title, we will head to Bloomington, Ind., where we will take on the Hoosiers. Before the 1 o'clock start, I will add a touch of Jersey glamour and put glitter on my block M tattoo, take a look at the warrior to my left and to my right, listen to Paige's "rather die than lose" inspiration, get in a "Go Blue!" cheer and begin to fight, strive, work hard and succeed in becoming the best by the end of the match so that we can walk away as champions and become one step closer to our final destination.

Michigan hosts Ohio State Friday afternoon (Oct. 22) at 3 p.m. and has Senior Day on Sunday morning (Oct. 24) against UC Davis at 11 a.m. The Wolverines can clinch a share of the Big Ten title with a win over the Buckeyes.

This week, senior Alicia Mayer talks about her four years at U-M and what it takes to be a champion.

Friday, Oct. 22

Alicia Mayer

What does it mean to be a champion? A champion is defined as someone who wins first place, as someone who is superior with the attributes of a winner, or as someone who fights for a cause. A warrior. A fighter. This is the definition of our team.

This year has been one big fight to become better than what we were. To prove to everyone that we are a great team capable of accomplishing great things. We aimed high with the goal of winning a Big Ten championship and nothing is going to get in our way. Every day we step out on the field hockey field and we fight each other, pushing ourselves to win our one-on-one battles, run faster, recover harder, score more goals and execute our basic skills. Then, because a champion's job is never done we do it all over again. Our willingness to work harder than any other team is what makes us superior to all the rest. We are the number one team in the Big Ten right now, which is a new position for us. We used to be the team that no one really thought twice about. Now, it is our turn to have the target on our backs and our team has embraced this fact. We fight every day to be better than we were the day before and this weekend we will battle Ohio State on our quest to become Big Ten champions. As champions, we accept the challenge and will fight alongside our fellow warriors and take down anyone who tries to take our championship from us.

Being champions on the field is one thing; however, we work hard to be champions off the field as well. For the seniors this fight is almost over. We have spent four long years, some of us even longer, working toward being the best in our concentrations as well as being the best in our sport. This weekend happens to be a special weekend as it is Senior Day. We seniors will be honored for all the hard work and dedication we have put into this program. It is a special day for me because I have not had the smoothest transition coming into Michigan and being recognized at Senior Day in front of friends and family makes me realize that I did it, I made it till the end. I can leave knowing that I gave it everything I had and I came out on top.

Nothing about being at Michigan is easy. This has been a long four-year journey. But I left everything I love at home in Pennsylvania and all for one reason. My desire to be champion.

As I look back on the journey of my senior class, with all its up and downs, I can proudly say we have truly abided by the words of Bo Schembechler, "Those who stay will be champions."

U-M has just one game this week, but it is a battle of Big Ten unbeatens as the Wolverines welcome Northwestern to Ocker Field Friday afternoon (Oct. 15) at 4 p.m.

This week, junior Hannah Dawson talks about Friday's game against Northwestern, the mentality of the 2010 team, and gives a birthday message to a teammate.

Friday, Oct. 15

Hannah Dawson

There is only one goal that every student athlete has. That goal is becoming a national champion.

Why as humans do we feel the need to raise the bar? Why are being leaders and competitors apart of our nature? Humans have a natural tendency to be the best of the best -- it's why we run that extra mile or study an hour longer. Therefore, contending to be a national champion becomes more challenging and causes so many people to seek and very few find.

When thinking about what to write, so many ideas floated in my mind. Friday's game vs. Northwestern or the history exam next week. Of all the ideas running through my mind, I could not stop thinking about losing. Losing is the failure to successfully accomplish something that we have put time, effort, and passion into. This is why, especially in sports, losing hurts.

My first two seasons, the excuse "almost winning" became okay. Winning had left its natural base in our minds and replaced by the weakness of losing; somewhere, somehow we lost our eagerness to win. After many games in those first two seasons, I specifically remember my feelings of disappointment and heartbreak. Winning every championship in high school, I forgot what losing was like. I forgot how vulnerable, bitter, and uncomfortable it makes one feel. Losing reveals weaknesses and flaws of a team or competitor. However, the magical and yet inspirational underlying feeling of loss is that you cannot win without it. The spirit of losing forces us to look deeper inside ourselves and question how much does winning truly mean. How much are you willing to sacrifice? How much are you willing to risk? For those who lose, you are continuously reminded of how desirable winning is and without the occasional loss; the desire of winning becomes absent. The unfortunates of the previous two seasons unconsciously shaped and strengthened the 2010 team's mental and physical ability.

The game vs. Northwestern on Friday is, thus far, the most crucial game I have ever played here at Michigan. We are the only two teams left undefeated in the conference. There will be a tremendous amount of pressure on both teams, however due to our feelings of loss from the previous two seasons, we understand how desirable winning is, and therefore losing is out of the question.

All in all, I am no Buddha, just a competitor who has suffered from losing too many times. I speak for my team, my coaches, and myself; we are ready, confident, and eager to take on each day as a battle to put us in a position to win the ultimate goal of a national championship.

Lastly, a shout out to Jess Allen. Happy Birthday!!

Michigan ends its three-game home stand on Friday (Oct. 8) when the Wolverines face Miami at 4 p.m. Michigan then visits Iowa on Sunday (Oct. 10) at 1 p.m. EDT (12 p.m. CDT). That game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

This week, Redshirt junior Eileen Brandes talks about growing up in a Maize and Blue family and what goes on during a seven-hour bus ride to Iowa.

Wednesday, Oct. 6

Eileen Brandes

My mom is one of eight children. Five of them went to the University of Michigan. It would be an understatement to say that I grew up in a household that bleeds Maize and Blue. Yet, up until my sophomore year in high school, I swore that I would go anywhere but Michigan. My mom played field hockey at the University, earning a spot in the Michigan Hall of Honor along the way, and all I wanted to do was create my own, unique identity. Yet, one fall day during my sophomore year, I took my first step on campus and never looked back. I knew I wanted to push my athletic abilities just to be a part of the tradition that comes along with wearing the block M and to leave my small New England town to get a degree from a world renowned university. As a redshirt, I have slowly worked my way up the ladder to earn playing time, and Friday was my first time significantly playing in a Big Ten home game, and above all, it was against Michigan State. The crowd was electrifying and I finally felt the surreal emotion of tradition that overtakes you when playing for Michigan: it could be seen in the unwavering beaming faces of 22 sweaty, exhausted females, hugging at the end of 70 minutes with "The Victors" being sung in the background.

This past month has been long awaited. As Hannah said, it's the first time since she's been on the team that we've been over .500. Though we had a minor setback to No. 1 Maryland on Sunday, it was a defeat that left us disappointed, but not because we "got through it" and lost but because everyone at the field that day thought and expected that we were going to win; that's what comes with putting on the block M every day.

We're off to Iowa this weekend in attempt to improve our Big Ten record to 3-0. With a seven-hour bus ride, I'd like to think it'll be a great time to get a lot of work done, but in reality, I know I'll be distracted by Marcia trying to plan Paige's future, Vanessa updating us all on the happenings in the tweeting world, Meredith's impersonations, and Bryn's occasional scream of "Guys, Where's My Tooth!?!" Another seven hours of bonding time that will only make us a better team and make October's record just as impressive as September's. GO BLUE!

Haley Jones

Michigan faces two top-10 opponents this week at Phyllis Ocker Field. The Wolverines welcome in-state rival and No. 6 Michigan State on Friday (Oct. 1) at 4 p.m. U-M then faces No. 1 Maryland on Sunday (Oct. 3) at 1 p.m.

Redshirt freshman Haley Jones, the current Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, gives Michigan fans an inside look on what it takes to be a goalkeeper and the working at practice to get ready for the 70 minutes of games.

Thursday, Sept. 30

After hours upon hours of training, countless drills, video sessions, and even more training, a field hockey game is simply 70 minutes. Only 70 minutes is given to battle for the win, to prove not only which team wants it more but what team will do anything to get it. For six games straight we have been that team. Of course, getting the 'W' on our record feels great but in order to do so, more than 70 minutes of work needs to put in at practice; something our coaches most definitely do not shy away from. They understand that our hours of practice each day are just as important as the 70 minutes in the games. We, the coaches, and players push each other harder during the week, which makes us that much more prepared for the challenge ahead. The team has been making great strides throughout this season, making us ready to attack anything that comes our way.

Coming off a big win against 14th-ranked Penn State, we have our spirits high and eager to take on our next Big Ten opponent. It is always intimidating to go and play on another team's home turf. However, I think that is what lights the fire in the hearts and minds of the Michigan field hockey team. Playing away immediately puts in the opponent's eyes that you are the underdog; they are ready to shine for they are in their comfort zone. While most teams would wither at this idea, we attack. We know that the reason practice is so tough during the week is so that we are able to win all those away, and home, games; therefore, making us get one step closer to the championship.

Many will tell you that goalies are not the most "normal" people. And it is true, we may have some weird quirks but nothing too out of the ordinary. I will say though, it does take a "special" person to willingly let opponents and teammates shoot a solid ball towards you from a rather close distance. As a redshirt freshman last year, I was able to fully focus on improving my skills and was lucky enough to have two amazingly talented goalkeepers to learn from. Both taught me that confidence and composure are two important components to being successful in the cage. You have to be ready to step up and make the save; no time to think, only to react. By receiving the opportunity to play in the past few games, my skills have truly been put to the test, especially by playing a 14th-ranked team. And no doubt, it definitely boosts my confidence knowing that I have 10 of my teammates in front of me, ready to take on any player in any situation. As a team, we have found that groove, learning to play relentlessly for every minute of every game.

Michigan wraps up its five-game home stand on Friday (Sept. 24) with a 3 p.m game against New Hampshire. The Wolverines then open their Big Ten season on Sunday (Sept. 26) in State College, Pa., as U-M takes on Penn State at 1 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

Junior Jess Allen gives Michigan fans an inside look at what a player is thinking about on the field and the team's preparations for the rest of the season.

Thursday, Sept. 23

Jess Allen

Pinnie on. Left sock up, right sock up. Turf shoes tied tight. Don't forget your mouth guard. The lockers whiz shut, the sticks clank from the rack, and the team heads to the pitch for a huddle before practice. As I look around the circle, I no longer just see my teammates, but instead, the warrior to my left and to my right, across from me, and diagonal from me. That is when I realize that I alone do not matter. The only thing that matters is the team.

Someone once told me that you must give of yourself to a cause bigger than yourself. That cause is Michigan. If you can do that, if we can all do that, there will be enough credit for everyone.

For those of you who may not know, we face New Hampshire this Friday. We cannot and will not overlook them. But let's face it; this week's practice started the preparations for our Big Ten season. Penn State is up first and the team is excited. We have learned from our 4-4 record thus far. We have the knowledge in our heads and the skills in our hands and feet. Our coaches believe in "just one more," and that's what they ask of us. One more 300-yard shuttle, one more minute of 1V1 drills, one more set of offensive corners. "Just one more" -- that could be the difference.

So let's get another "Go Blue!" Let's get back on the field to sweat, bleed and dive for each other. We have so much more hockey to play and so much more learning to do. I am pumped for the start of Big Tens and to see where this team will go. Without being together as a team there is no hope. With me and my girls, we got a lot.

The Wolverines continue their five-game home stand this weekend with matches against Albany (Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m.) and Quinnipiac (Sunday, Sept. 19, 1 p.m.) at Phyllis Ocker Field.

Freshman Rachael Mack looks back on a successful weekend for the team, as well as adjusting to college life in America and how the newcomers are jelling as a group.

Thursday, Sept. 16

Rachael Mack

All the girls were really pumped about the first weekend of home games. We were out to impress and we wanted to gain our first two wins of the season. We had been training extremely hard over the week and we felt as though things were really coming together. Our game against ranked James Madison started off very rocky with us playing poor and rushed hockey, but after an intense halftime talk, we came out prepared to win the match. After scoring two quick goals, we attacked hard to gain another one, which we did, taking the match into overtime, where Meredith Way scored the winner. In our game against Central Michigan, we wanted to continue our winning streak, so we made it an aim to score more goals, which we successfully did, and our second win topped off the weekend.

The crowd this past weekend was really supportive and the cheering really encouraged us to work harder. They chanted for us even when we were down, and when we were making our comeback, their volume increased further, which motivated us even more. They came to support us, so we thought a good way to repay them would be to win!

Since I have arrived in the USA, we have played a huge amount of hockey and I feel that as each day goes by I keep progressing bit by bit, which is a great feeling. The team works really well together; we motivate, support and push each other to get that little bit better. In terms of school, it has taken me some time to adjust to the way that college in America works, but I think I am getting the hang of things now. Everyone has been really supportive, especially the hockey girls, so it's getting easier. One thing for certain is that the amount of food you get here is in excess to that in the UK, so I've had to be sensible with what I eat!

We have a large freshman group and we all get on well. We have a good chemistry, which is shown both on and off the pitch. We have had many funny times since the start of preseason, with Ainsley's unstoppable dancing, Amanda's seriously blonde comments and Lauren's scary obsession with country music, but as a whole we've had some great times and things just keep getting better!!

The Wolverines start their home schedule with games against James Madison (Friday, Sept. 10) and Central Michigan (Sunday, Sept. 12) this week at Ocker Field. Redshirt senior tri-captain Paige Laytos talks about the fan support the team gets as well as her reaction to her Big Ten PSA that was recently debuted.

Friday, Sept. 10

Paige Laytos

With the first home opener weekend coming up, it's an exciting time to see the field transform. This season is unlike any other though. Not only will the fans see a new beautiful team, but also, a newly renovated field. Coach went above and beyond this year to make our field look top notch with the new wind screens and newly painted overpass bridge (we're starting early this year with our community services hours).

This is an exciting season for us in the amount of home games we have compared to previous seasons. It's great to have a home crowd elevate our level of play. I expect the crowds to be more diverse this year than ever with our Jersey girls' engineer, frat guys, the wrestlers, and of course our lovely softball fanatics.

It's hard to believe we are already approaching our third weekend of play. As a team, we have come a long way from our first weekend at UNC. We competed hard but weren't able to put two full halves of play together. Coming off last weekend, we can finally say we played a full game. The pieces are there and we are doing everything it takes to make them fall in place.

Two weeks ago my PSA was released and as many of you know I'm not the best with words. I'm pretty shy, so to go through that experience was really unlike any thing I have ever done. Thankfully I had a personal acting coach, Justin Chrzanowski, to give me some pointers before my shoot. I was pretty nervous that they would even have enough material to compile a whole commercial. When I left practice and had a bunch of calls and text about people saying they saw it I was mortified that I didn't get the chance to see it first. All in all, I've received pretty positive reviews, so if accounting doesn't work out for me I now know I have a plan B.

The Wolverines are into their second week of play, heading to New England this weekend (Sept. 2-5) to face Maine and Connecticut. Senior tri-captain Zara Saydjari discusses the first weekend of games and her excitement in returning to her home state of Maine.

Zara Saydjari

Thursday, Sept. 2

This past weekend in Chapel Hill was disappointing yet revealing. It was disappointing because we had put ourselves in a position to defeat the No. 1 (North Carolina) and No. 6 (Wake Forest) ranked teams in the country. We had both teams on their heels at halftime. Despite the losses this weekend, our trip to North Carolina proved to us that we are capable of competing with the best teams in the nation and having an incredibly special season. We will carry the things we did well and the things we need to improve on to the great state of Maine, where we hope to capture our first victory of the 2010 season.

From kindergarten to graduating high school, I spent my entire life in Skowhegan, Maine. Many of the students in my graduating class attended the University of Maine at Orono, which is why our game against Maine on Thursday is very special to me. I will have friends from the university, my high school, and the local community there to watch and cheer me on. In addition, No. 9 on the other team is Courtney Veinotte, who played directly behind me on the field in high school and she was also one of my best friends. So you can imagine, this game is going to be very exciting and emotional for me.

Ever since my family moved to Wyoming after my freshmen year at Michigan, I have missed everything about the state of Maine. I miss my house, my friends, Skowhegan Area High School, and everything else. This will be a great chance for me to say hi to some people that I have not seen for three years and show them how truly great it is to be a Michigan Wolverine.

The Wolverines have been on campus preparing for their Aug. 28 season opener since the middle of August.

Senior tri-captain Meredith Way is the first blogger, chronicling the preseason happenings at Ocker Field.

Meredith Way

Friday, Aug. 27: The Program

During this preseason we have encountered many new faces. Between our nine incoming freshmen and former military leader Eric Kapitulik, we knew it was going to be quite different from former preseasons.

(Head coach Marcia Pankratz) first introduced us to Eric Kapitulik through his blog about his journey climbing Mount Everest. He is a former officer in the U.S. military and now runs his own business called "The Program." Marcia told us in early spring that Eric would be coming in for two days during our preseason to put us through the program. During these brief four-hour sessions we had with Eric, at no time did we ever pick up a hockey stick or ball. Instead, we lifted things like sandbags onto our backs and then had to sprint with them or lift heavy logs over our head. We also did approximately one million and four pushups, sit-ups, mountain climbers and jumping jacks all leading up to that one perfect jumping jack all together. Our second four-hour session, we had to tread water the entire time. Oh yeah, while wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants. Needless to say, Eric Kapitulik will forever remain a part of our preseason experience. We pushed ourselves to the absolute limit while remaining together as a team.

With our nine incoming freshmen, they make up the majority of our team now. From playing full field 3v3 in the spring to having 22 girls on the team now, the rest period during drills is, thankfully, significantly longer. All of our freshmen live with the upperclassmen during preseason, usually sleeping on makeshift beds or air mattresses. Now that we are reaching the end of our preseason, we usually realize who is the messy freshman, or the one that likes to steal food. And also, how much Mallory (Albini) and Leslie (Smith) like to sneak as many bites as possible of my prize-winning dip. Of course, I had a few words to say about that because although it may be prize-winning, it only comes out every so often because of the extremely high caloric intake. I guess it was probably for my own good that I didn't have it all to myself, but as you can tell, I really wanted ALL of MY dip. Thankfully they move into the dorms once we get back from our trip to UNC this weekend. So whoever is Leslie's roommate, hide your dip!