Captains ready to lead MU field hockey to big things
Over the past few years Jessi Swingle and Kayla Grunza watched and learned from one veteran leader after another.
They watched players like Kayla's older sister Kristyn and Taryn Schawillie learning all they could.
Now it's their turn and Swingle and Kayla Grunza are hoping to lead the Mountaineers to big things.
"We had a lot of girls ahead of us, including her sister (Kristyn Grunza) who we were able to follow and take after," Swingle said. "We were able to follow and take after them as they led the way."
"Those are the type of leaders we saw and we want to become now," Kayla Grunza said.
The two enjoy having the younger players looking up to them.
"It's a great feeling knowing we are the ones they look up to and we are not the little kids on the field anymore," Swingle said. "You don't realize how quick it goes."
For Grunza this year is like going back to high school.
"It's weird, but it's nice," she said. "I went through this in high school now it's like the same transition in college."
For both players it's weird to think they are seniors now.
"When we were freshmen and sophomores we thought 'oh, it's never going to get here,' and we had a presentation the other night and they put all the seniors up and it's like we couldn't believe it," Swingle said.
"It's like it's not even real," Grunza said.
The two know that with a talented group of newcomers, they can learn from them while they lead.
"We can help them and they can help us," Grunza said.
For the seniors they know this is their last chance to have a big year.
"We were younger and it was always like it's great if we have a good season, and now it's our last one," Swingle said.
"It's our last chance," Grunza added.
"It's our last year, we are putting it all out there and pushing everybody else out there too," Swingle said.
The players know that if they want a special year they have to treat every game like the biggest game.
"Now it's like you have to beat this team and you have to beat this team and you have to make it there," Grunza said. "There is no holding back for any team. We have to go all out every single game. We want to win every single game."
"(Coach) Diane (Monkiewicz) always said, I remember being on the bus and her telling the seniors it's your last game against Bloom and the underclassmen you have to understand this is their last game and now I understand it."
Both Swingle and Grunza are excited to have a big group of freshmen coming in this year.
"We have a lot of newcomers coming in that are really going to benefit us on all parts of the field," Swingle said.
"They are really impressive freshmen," Grunza added.
The veterans know that all these newcomers are going to push them to be better this year.
"We know it is not going to be easy for us to keep our spots so they push us to keep our spots and it's a great thing," Swingle said.
"Everyone is working hard and it's great motivation for everyone," Grunza added.
While Mansfield has had some big offensive weapons in recent years they know they need to have a great balance this year.
"Kayla has both sides, she has offense and defense and I'm back on defense," Swingle said. "Having the push on both ends is equally important."
"We have freshmen coming in that are going to push us back on the defense and benefit us."
The seniors are excited that if a player leaves the game there will be talented players ready to fill in this year.
"It's great to have people on the sidelines that can come in and have fresh legs and stay at the same level," Grunza said. "We definitely have more options we can use and take advantage of."
After three years with the Mountaineers both Grunza and Swingle won't be surprised often by other teams.
"We know what to expect now, we know how a lot of the teams play," Swingle said.
"We have seen it over the last three years, we will be able to prepare a little better and know what to expect."
And, after a year on the new turf field under their belts the Mountaineers are ready for a new season in their new home.
"Last year was an adjustment," Swingle said. "We were playing catch up with all the other teams this past year. They have all had turf for years and years and we were finally getting it. Now I feel we are starting to equal up with other teams."
And, just working on the turf field in practices is a big help.
"Even being able to practice in the spring has been so beneficial," Grunza said. "Because we are able to come back out only a couple months off the turf, so it's a great thing to have."