Field Hockey: Aalgaard, Littleton are downright defensive

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Shelby Littleton, left, and Cassidy Aalgaard have been two of the many reasons why the San Benito High field hockey team has been competitive as a first-year program.

Cassidy Aalgaard and Shelby Littleton are the last line of defense for the San Benito High field hockey team. Littleton, a senior sweeper, and Aalgaard, a junior goalie, are two of the many reasons why the Haybalers (2-10 overall, 2-6 league) have been competitive for a first-year program.
Even though San Benito enters Friday’s season-finale against York with two victories, it hasn’t sustained endless blowout losses that befall most prep teams in their inaugural year.
In fact, out of the team’s 10 losses, seven have come by two goals or less. The Balers have plenty of homegrown talent—they always do—but one of the more unique aspects of the team has to do with the fact that Aalgaard and Littleton were raised in Florida and Texas, respectively.
Aalgaard was born in Hollister, raised in Fort Myers and moved back to Hollister for her seventh-grade year, and Littleton was living in Marble Falls, Texas, before moving to Hollister before the start of her senior year. Although both players love their home states, they’ve grown fond of Hollister, too.
“I do love California because I have all my family here,” Aalgaard said.
Although Littleton’s situation was far from ideal—“I didn’t want to move to another place before my senior year,” she said—things have turned out better than she expected.
“Hollister is a really nice community and is similar to my old town,” Littleton said, referring to Marble Falls, which has a population of just over 6,000 and is located 48 miles northwest of Austin.
Like the majority of the players on the team, neither Aalgaard nor Littleton had ever played field hockey before the season began.
“I had never even heard of field hockey until this year,” Littleton said. “My attitude was why not try something new?”
For Aalgaard, playing field hockey intrigued her. Having played softball for most of her life, Aalgaard wanted to try something different.
“Field hockey has replaced softball as my favorite sport,” she said. “I like it because everyday you can see the improvement we’re making.”
Indeed, the Balers have come a long way since beginning conditioning sessions in the summer. Littleton said at the very beginning, no one knew what equipment was used for what or how to use them properly. That was expected for players who had never played the game before, let alone watch the sport at any point in their lives.
“I wish we had video of our first practice because we had no idea what was going on,” Littleton said. “Coach (Tessa Chapman) had us doing passes and drills all day. It got so boring, but it helped us a lot. There are a lot of rules and definitely a learning curve, but we’re so much better now. We’ve come a long way.”
One of the more memorable highlights of the team’s season was its first victory, a 1-0 nail-biter over Monterey on Oct. 20. Austin Perez scored three minutes into sudden-death overtime, and pandemonium ensued. It was a surreal scene, with many of the San Benito players not realizing they had won.
“I didn’t see the goal at all,” Littleton said.
“Some of us didn’t know it was sudden death,” Aalgaard said.
After regulation ended in a 0-0 tie, Littleton was weary of what would happen next.
“We were so excited we tied and we didn’t lose,” she said. “It was great. Then the referees told us it would be 7 on 7 for seven minutes, and it was like, ‘Oh no, there’s chance we could lose.’ It was really scary when we started OT, and I was shaking because of the nerves. Once Austin scored, everyone started hugging her and it was really funny and great. There was a lot of shouting, and I think someone might have cried. You could say we were pretty excited.”
Things got better from there. On Nov. 2, the Balers beat Salinas, 1-0, with Perez once again scoring the decisive goal off an assist from Karina Collins. Aalgaard and Littleton have seen their passion for field hockey grow with each passing practice and match, and Littleton can’t believe the season is almost over.
“I wish I wasn’t a senior because I think in the next few years, this team will be up there,” she said.
Aalgaard and Littleton are often the loudest voices on the team, as they constantly communicate with one another to make sure everyone is aligned correctly from a defensive standpoint.
“We definitely yell at all of the girls to make sure they hear us,” Aalgaard said. “If they can’t hear me, I’ll have Shelby talk to them for me. We’re focusing on all of our players marking their girls, and keeping the confidence up.”
Off the field, both players have unique perspectives and high ambitions. Littleon comes from football-crazy Texas, where high school football is literally a religion. Several coaches at the bigger schools rake in $70,000 or more a year, but even in a small town like Marble Falls, football is king.
With a seating capacity of 4,750, the football stadium at Marble Falls High is more impressive than almost anything you’d find in California.
“They spent way too much on that stadium,” Littleton said. “Football is insane over there. There’s a lot of spirit, but it’s crazy. I actually do miss it sometimes, but I like it here because there are a lot more sports for girls, which is nice.”
Littleton is taking four advanced placement classes this semester, and has a weighted GPA of 4.4 or 4.5. When asked where she ranked in the senior class, Littleton said, “I think No. 31 out of 700 (students), or the top four percent.” Actually, she could rank higher on the list, given those impressive numbers.
Littleton has a love for science and genetics, and her major will probably fall in those categories. Aalgaard knows exactly what she wants to do once she graduates in the spring of 2017: join the Navy to purse a career as an emergency room nurse. Aalgaard’s older brother, Cody Wright, is a 2013 San Benito High graduate who is now serving in the Navy. Aalgaard gained inspiration from seeing how much the Navy changed her brother’s life.
Aalgaard said she’s received nothing but love and support from her parents, Lindsay Bolin and Sean Aalgaard, about her decision to enlist in the Navy.
“My parents support it because after my brother went, it changed his life so much,” Aalgaard said. “It made him much more mature and my parents believe if a kid wants to do something they’re passionate about, that’s what they should do.”

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