Field Hockey: Balers off and running

New field hockey team is coached by Tessa Chapman along with players Cassiday Aalgaard, Austin Perez, Shelby Littleton, Kourtney Carmichael, Olivia Gonzalez, Railyn King and Kaityln Tedesco. The sport is new to San Benito High this year.

When Tessa Chapman became the coach of the inaugural San Benito High field hockey program, she wanted to make sure her girls would have the best possible chance of success.
Mission accomplished. Chapman had the team attend a number of field hockey camps and clinics to hone their skills in a competitive environment. Chapman, 38, also held strength and conditioning sessions so the girls could build more endurance and stamina for field hockey, which involves a lot of running.
“Within two weeks of strength and conditioning, there was such a big difference in terms of the girls not being out of breath anymore,” said Chapman, a 1995 Gilroy High graduate. “I’ve really been impressed by the girls’ commitment. We’ve had different things going on every weekend that’s kept them busy, and they keep on coming back.”
As of last week, Chapman had 54 girls to select for the junior varsity and varsity teams, and she expected additional girls to show up for tryouts that ended on Wednesday. Unlike most first-year programs, Chapman doesn’t foresee a breaking-in period in which the Haybalers have to take their lumps before they see progress. Chapman made sure the breaking-in period would come before the season started, not during.
“We’ve done a lot over the summer knowing all of them are beginners except one girl who played indoor field hockey in Gilroy,” Chapman said. “They’re all starting fresh, and we’ve been learning as we go. It’s definitely satisfying getting back on the field with these girls because I see the excitement they’re getting out of it. Their skill level improves day by day, and it’s impressive.”
Chapman said she’s been impressed by the disposition of all of the players on the team, including junior goalie Cassidy Aalgaard, who leads by example and possesses a positive attitude that rubs off on her teammates. Senior Austin Perez gives San Benito an athletic playmaker, and fellow senior Shelby Littleton is also fast to the ball.
A pair of freshmen, Railyn King and Kaityln Tedesco, are fast players who could stretch defenses and open up scoring opportunities for their teammates. Sophomore Olivia Gonzalez is known for her determination and junior Kourtney Carmichael is perhaps the team’s most versatile player, able to play every position except goalie.
“We definitely have the capability of turning into a strong team,” Chapman said. “I wish some of the senior girls had this team when they were freshmen, because I could see some of them playing college hockey. It’s still very possible for some of them. We have a lot of juniors who are high in potential, too. I hope we’re competitive and I hope we have wins, but the most important thing is the team playing good field hockey and having fun. If we can focus on that, we’ll be successful regardless of what happens with wins and losses.”
Chapman enjoyed a fine prep career at Gilroy before serving as one of the Mustangs’ assistant coaches from 1995 to 1997. From 1998 to 2001, she was in the military, where she worked on F-18s for a year before becoming a third-class yeoman. Chapman also attended college in New Zealand for two years starting in 2002 before coming back to the states.
With the exception of watching her niece play field hockey, Chapman hasn’t been involved in the game for the last several years. However, when the San Benito position opened, the Hollister resident saw a golden opportunity to get back into the game she grew up playing.
The Balers are participating in an eight-team scrimmage at North Salinas on Aug. 29, which should give Chapman an even better indication of how her team will fare this season. Scrimmages are more intense than they sound, as teams take turns playing each other.
Coaches can quickly gauge what areas their team needs improving in, and what areas they are strongest. In addition to the girls’ attitudes and talent, Chapman is optimistic about the program because of the support it has received from the community.
In particular, Chapman gave credit to Live to Cycle owners Carolyn and Erik Homan and Cold Storage CrossFit owner Christi Turner for doing fundraising events that helped the team purchase equipment and uniforms.


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