Captains steer Rutgers to fast start
The difference between a fragmented group of individuals and a unified team starts with influential leaders.
Spearheading the leadership efforts on the Rutgers field hockey team through the 2015 season are its two captains, senior midfielder Ali Stever and junior midfielder Alyssa Bull.
Under the direction of this powerful pair, Scarlet Knights (5-2) have taken their only two losses of the season to ranked opponents, both by a margin of just one lone goal.
This appears to be no fluke.
Head coach Meredith Civico sees her team’s early successes as a direct reflection of the work being put forth, fueled by her captains.
“The two of them have been really providing consistent and positive leadership to the team. I think the two of them really set the standard on the field with their work rate and their effort and their focus every day,” Civico said. “They’re just both people that their teammates trust and can come to off the field.”
Both starting all seven games so far this fall, the Knights’ leaders have dominated this season.
Solidifying herself as a force to be reckoned with on the field, Stever notched a goal in the first game of the season against Bucknell and has tallied three assists since. She had a multi-point game in the team’s 5-2 victory over Villanova, while also contributing an assist against No. 9 Virginia.
Rebounding from an ACL injury last year, Bull has hit the ground running through the start of this season as well. In her second consecutive term as team captain, she has tallied three goals and four assists in just seven games so far.
The midfielder has also made herself known in conference standings, being recognized as a Big Ten Player to Watch in the league’s preseason poll for the second year in a row. Bull is one of just seven players to be honored in back-to-back seasons.
But beyond the statistics and rankings, these Knights help propel their team toward success with an unwavering enthusiasm and devotion that permeates on and off the field.
With genuine humility, both captains are hesitant to take sole credit in their leadership responsibilities.
“I think we have a lot of great senior players on the team and we all just lead by example by our play. The energy that we bring to the game, I think that’s how I choose to lead the most—just the effort and the passion I have for the team and the game.”
Belonging to a close-knit class of five players who have seen the program through four years now, Bull and Stever are adamant in not overlooking the impact of their fellow seniors.
Stever echoed her co-captain’s sentiments of veteran leadership driving the team toward a successful sophomore season in the Big Ten.
“All the other upperclassmen, especially the seniors like Katie (Champion), Nicole (Imbriaco) and Carley (Hawkins), they do a great job of leading the team as well so even though Alyssa and I are technically the captains, we as seniors really take leadership seriously on the team so it’s really a team effort in terms of leading the group,” Stever said.
With Bull and Stever guiding the Knights down a path of progression and enhancement, positive changes have already been yielded for Rutgers as it makes a name for itself in the elite Big Ten Conference.
The early successes are a reflection of the reinforcement of goals and values that start with team leadership.
“I think, from the coach’s perspective, they’re two players that really understand what we’re trying to do as a program and who understand what we’re trying to create as far as our team culture,” Civico said. “Those two just reinforce that every day both on the field and off the field, which is, as a coach, what you really want from your captains.”
Leaders influence not only the intensity level in practice and games, but also the team dynamic and mentality.
Stever and Bull are adamant on creating an atmosphere on the field and in the locker room where every individual player knows the value they hold on the team as well as the significance of their contributions.
“I think it’s really important that everyone on the team from the freshman to the seniors understands that they each have a really critical and important role on the team," Stever said. "I like to hear everyone’s input before making a decision, because I want everyone else to feel that they matter and they have a say on the team because they do.”
With an optimistic outlook and an acute determination, Bull and Stever look to encourage their teammates and bring about the outcomes that they know Rutgers is capable of this season.
Riding on positive momentum gained so far, the vision for the Knights’ season appears bright and promising.
“I really believe in our team and I think that we can go very far this season," Bull said. "I just want everyone to realize their own potential and I think if we can do that, we can go very far as a team but it takes everyone working hard and working together. So hopefully if I can motivate people to come together and work hard these next couple months, we’re really gonna show the Big Ten and hopefully the NCAA what Rutgers field hockey is all about.”
For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @kaylee_pofahl and @TargumSports on Twitter.