Championship reflections: Windsor field hockey title unexpected, expected

  • Windsor High coach Jody Wood goes over halftime instructions with her Yellowjackets during the VPA Division III field hockey championship at Burlington High School in Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file — Greg Fennell

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2021 9:12:02 PM
Modified: 12/2/2021 9:11:40 PM

WINDSOR — Windsor High field hockey coach Jody Wood wasn’t expecting this outcome.

Coming off two consecutive VPA Division III state championships, the Yellowjackets’ roster appeared in flux. After graduating a lot of key players, Wood expressed some concern about depth entering the season and thought it would be a rebuilding year for her program.

But the team got stronger as the season progressed, winning seven of its last nine regular season games. Windsor carried that momentum into the playoffs and turned it into a three-peat as top seed with a 3-0 defeat of No. 2 Lyndon on Nov. 6 in Burlington.

It was a whirlwind ride that stemmed from a preseason conversation between Wood and her team.

“I told the girls, ‘This can be any type of year you want it to be. For me, I’m very competitive. I want you guys to excel. I’m going to push you to be the very best,’ ” Wood said. “But I literally looked at them and I said, ‘What do you want me to do? Do you want to have fun this season? Do you want me to push you to be a great field hockey team?’ And they all wanted me to push them. So they worked hard.”

The beginning of the season was bumpy, as the Yellowjackets started 1-3-1. But Wood and her girls knew the schedule was difficult early. Senior midfielder and captain Reese Perry said that early stretch never felt like it doomed the rest of the season because they knew the competition was stiff.

The team improved from the first meeting against Bellows Falls to the second a week later. That’s when she knew this team had potential.

“Once we hit midseason, the girls were getting in shape, they were communicating better, they were playing better hockey,” Wood said. “They seemed more committed at that point, because I think they recognized that they had potential to go far.”

The beginning of the postseason run, a 4-0 win over Milton, was a key moment for Windsor. The Yellowjackets were far stronger than they were at the beginning of the season, but they’d still dropped two of their last three. And given their roster turnover from the previous season, many players had never experienced the playoffs.

Perry and the other leaders had to ensure their teammates were comfortable and understood the task at hand.

“Going into that game, I remember everyone being so nervous,” Perry said. “Usually the first round sets the tone for a lot of how the rest of the postseason is gonna play out. I remember going through the hallway during that day and tugging on some of the girls because they were that nervous. And then when we finally got to the game itself, it built so much that by the time we got on the field, you’re just relieved to be doing something to start getting rolling again.”

Senior midfielder Peyton Richardson was a stalwart for these Yellowjackets. She led the team with 20 points and 11 goals, including one in the state championship to put the game away. She committed to play field hockey at Castleton University on Wednesday.

Richardson felt responsible for moving into the key role vacated by the previous class.

“I definitely felt like I needed to really step up this year, losing so many players last year,” Richardson said. “But I definitely feel like every single person contributed whether they scored a goal or not.”

Richardson’s play often left Wood in awe. During that title game, Wood got goosebumps watching the senior in her final high school game because she played so well.

“She makes it look so easy,” Wood said. “People know how she plays. They’ll triple-team her. If that’s the case, she’ll have somebody else take the free hit. She’ll still get the ball back.”

Capturing the third straight title meant a lot to the Windsor seniors who were there for all three seasons. Perry said she didn’t think it would be possible given the target they’d have. After winning two titles in a row, the Yellowjackets would get everyone’s best shots. That’s the type of opponent that teams get up for. But Windsor prevailed.

The surprising nature of how this team came together and brought home another trophy may be what sets the 2021 Yellowjackets apart from the two previous title winners.

“The other two times, we had a ton of experience on our side. We had been playing together in that unit for such a long time that I knew the way (the prior teams) played,” Perry said. “What made this team so much different was that I had never played with half these girls. I hadn’t met them, didn’t know who they were. And then all of a sudden you’re on the field together and chemistry was hard to generate. Rolling into the season, learning how to play together, it was a hard job. But I think we figured it out.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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