When the Gleneagle Talons girls field hockey team walks onto the Tamanawis Park turf for their opening match in the AAA Fraser Valley championships on Wednesday, they’ll be joined by players from most of the program’s 21 years.
Maybe not physically, but they’ll be there in spirit.
And it’s that “Talon spirit” field hockey coach Patty Anderson says accounts for a large part of the school’s history of success in the sport. Gleneagle has won the district championship 16 times out of the school’s 21 years in existence. The most recent was last Thursday when they edged out Dr. Charles Best in double overtime in a game that took two days to play after heavy rain Wednesday caused it to be suspended at the end of the first half.
It’s that spirit that motivated the Talons’ substitute players to eschew the shelter of the covered bench area to stand on the sidelines cheering their teammates — and getting just as wet and cold as them — during the heaviest of the downpour.
It’s that spirit that caused two former players now attending school in Maine and Toronto to send messages of support on FaceTime as this year’s players prepared for their championship showdown with the Blue Devils, who’d beaten Gleneagle earlier in the season.
“The kids get an idea of how important field hockey is here,” Anderson said. “It’s bigger than playing for a single person, they’re playing for a team.”
Much of that tradition for team-building falls upon the seniors, Anderson said.
“That’s their job, to make sure everyone is feeling at the top all the time.”
It also makes it easier to recruit new players.
Anderson said while all schools in the Tri-Cities benefit from the strength of the Tri-City Eagles club field hockey program that was founded and built by Coquitlam sports hall of famer Brian Lewis, it’s the camaraderie and commitment to excellence that brings some of the best players to Gleneagle.
“They want to be involved,” she said. “The kids are really fired up.”
• Gleneagle plays its first match in the Fraser Valleys, against Clayton Park, at 11:30 a.m. on the upper field at Tamanawis. Centennial plays South Delta at 10 a.m., also on the upper field, while Best plays Panorama at the same time on the lower field. The championship match will be played Thursday at 1:30 p.m.