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Rec Sports Spotlight: Wildcats have clawed their way through Maryland Youth Field Hockey League

The core of the Walters Wildcats field hockey team has been together for about nine years. And the Freedom-based Wildcats have been winning for about the same length of time.

Coach Stephanie Walters, in addition to accumulating an impressive collection of trophies over those years, has also had the enjoyment of watching her kids develop as players.


From the time the girls reached the third/fourth grade level through their recently-concluded 7th/8th grade season, they have had five unbeaten seasons in the Maryland Youth Field Hockey League.

During that six-year period (they've played more than one season at each level), the Wildcats have also won 10 tournament titles. All of it goes back to the players and the coaching they receive.


Walters and co-coach Krista Davidson simply tell their girls that, with the right attitude, they can be successful with Freedom.

“I tell them, ‘We will make you good field hockey players if you listen to us and learn the fundamentals,’” Walters said.

And if the kids become good field hockey players, chances are that their team will win. Both have happened.

Walters began the team about nine years ago as a clinic group, and it has since developed into a big winner.

“Last year was one of our best years. We were unbeaten and untied in the league and won two tournaments. In our third tournament, we lost in the championship game,” Walters said.

She felt her group had formed a cohesive team at that point. However, things were about to change as some of her players went their separate ways when the season as over.

Walters lost several to club organizations and others to high school teams. This meant bringing in and training a bunch of replacements.

“I didn’t know what to expect because we’d lost a few players,” she said. “But I felt we’d be fine. I guessed they would be OK, but they would need some work.”


It turned out the players were more than just OK. But as well as they played, one thing or another conspired to keep them from winning championships this year.

On Sept. 22-23, they traveled to the Edgemere Hockeypalooza Tournament. The Wildcats’ final game with Catonsville would decide who won the championship.

In that one, Freedom scored in the first half and Catonsville tied it in the second.

That 1-1 tie held through two overtime periods. At that point, the two coaches talked it over and decided to call the game a tie. This made their teams co-champions.

Then, the first weekend in October brought bitter frustration at the Harford Hockeyfest Tournament.

Freedom had finished pool play tied with Catonsville; each had a 4-0 record. The bracket winner would go on to the championship game. Walters hoped the two teams would be allowed to play some sort of abbreviated game to break the tie.


However, the tournament officials insisted on deciding by a coin flip — Catonsville won it.

“We were the reigning champion, but that’s what they decided,” Walters said. “Some of the girls were crying when they left the field.”

A week later, the Wildcats played in the Hollow Hockey Tournament at the Garrison Forest School. Here, expectations were lower.

This tournament featured a number of high-powered club field hockey teams. Some of these teams play year-round. Field hockey to them is something of a lifestyle.

Freedom’s coaches entered to give their girls an opportunity to play in a competitive environment. Freedom had won that tourney twice in a row a few years earlier.

Some of the team’s girls had been there before, so their coaches felt the kids could hold their own this time. They did, compiling a 2-2 record. Their losses were by 3-1 and 4-2.


The team also went 6-0-1 in the Maryland Youth Field Hockey League this fall. While the league doesn’t keep standings, there couldn’t be many with a better record than that. But again, there is no trophy to how for it.

However, one thing is pretty certain. The kids are good.

“It’s a combination of everything,” Walters said. “The forwards are up there when the middies bring the ball down, and the defense follows where the ball is. And, we stress conditioning by having them run before practice.”

This makes Freedom better, and in the long run it’s the players who benefit.

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“The ones who really love it go on to college,” Walters said.

Her daughter Sarah moves on to Century High School next year. And mom wants to spend more time following Sarah’s field hockey career.


She has turned her directorship of Freedom’s field hockey program over to another. Walters planned to quit coaching too.

“I wanted to be the parent on the sidelines for a change,” she said.

However, coaching still calls. Walters and a friend already coach an informal, once-a week pickup field hockey game in Reisterstown during the summer.

And, she says, “I love being with the kids.”

There's a chance that the Freedom grade 7/8 field hockey team may not need a new coach next year after all.