The Oak Park and River Forest High School field hockey team came into the state final game on Oct. 30 against host New Trier feeling confident about its chances, given its competitiveness with the Trevians during the regular season.
Unfortunately, the Trevians took control early and cruised to a 4-0 win over the Huskies. The loss came in what was OPRF’s first finals appearance since 2008.
“New Trier has had a lot of experience in state final situations, and this was our first one in a long time. I think that played to their advantage,” said OPRF coach Kristin Wirtz. “We got behind early and it was a tough situation to come back from. It’s not easy to score in field hockey, and so it was a challenge.”
Despite the outcome, Wirtz felt the Huskies (18-3-6) had a great season. Highlights included wins over Glenbard West, Lake Forest and New Trier — all considered to be among the best in the state.
“Those wins were a huge reminder to the girls that we could beat these teams,” Wirtz said. “Beating Lake Forest in the semifinals [a 3-0 shutout] was the most special moment I’ve ever had as a coach. They played an unbelievable game as a team and it was special to watch.”
OPRF, which outscored its opponents this year 57-17, was able to succeed despite several injuries and illnesses. Wirtz said the Huskies’ mental toughness allowed them to overcome adversity throughout the season.
“They showed how strong they are, and this was an incredible group of girls,” she said.
The Huskies were an experienced squad, with 16 seniors who Wirtz believes set an example for the program’s younger players to follow.
“I know they wanted to win [the state championship], and that was tough,” said Wirtz. “Many of the seniors have been on varsity for three years, some for four. It’s a special group, and they’ve made huge strides for our program. Our goal was to compete with the high-achieving teams and not only did they compete, they beat them. They’ve set a new standard for what the program’s expectations should be.”
Wirtz was also appreciative of the large OPRF fan turnout at New Trier.
“I was blown away,” she said. “We had teachers, alumni, former field hockey players, parents, and friends come out. We may not have won the state title, but getting to the final game is a huge achievement, and I’m excited to see what the program’s future holds.”