Looking Forward

Photo+by+Kara+Rieger
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Looking Forward

Photo by Kara Rieger

Photo by Kara Rieger

Photo by Kara Rieger

Photo by Kara Rieger

Lany Borella, features writer

Growing up she participated in track, basketball and soccer; then, during her freshman year of high school, Meredith Openlander tried field hockey, and she is still involved with the sport today. Openlander said field hockey is the sport she loved the most because she picked it up really quick and was able to apply her soccer knowledge to a new game. It was her early success and the fun of the game with the challenge that she liked. She thought it was easier to use the stick then her feet as she did in soccer.

As KHS says goodbye to Katie Rau, C-team field hockey coach, they welcome a new member back into their family. Openlander, a 2010 KHS graduate, has come back to coach the JV field hockey team.

“I hope that in conjunction with varsity, Kirkwood can [become] a powerhouse field hockey school, and people really respect the program and admire how hard the girls work, [respect] their game sense and knowledge,” Openlander said.

Openlander’s background in field hockey and her love for teaching are what made her stand out above other candidates, Corey Nesslage, athletics director, said. She played throughout high school, and has been involved with the sport for 10 years. Openlander said she wants teams to worry when they find out their opponent is KHS.

Lilly Palmer, sophomore and JV field hockey player, said Openlander’s coaching is already impacting the team in a positive way.  She said Openlander is young, so she can more easily relate to her players while coaching them.

“This year there is a lot more [structure] within the practices, we have a purpose and a goal for each practice,” Morgyn Welsh, sophomore JV field hockey player, said. “For games we have different things we focus on as a team and things to improve on, I feel there is more structure and critique.”

Palmer said Openlander is introducing the incoming players to new skills such as pulls and lifts, two useful skills. Openlander said she remembers how many awful drills she had to do in high school and as a result tries to incorporate as many fun drills as possible into practice. She motivates her players by always reminding them of their potential.

“[I have learned more from Openlander] because she understands [my position],” Palmer said. “She was a midfielder for high school, so she understands the struggles it takes to always run down the field and she is always willing to help others.

With a 19-to-2 player-to-coach ratio, having Katherine Hoberg as the assistant JV coach to help Openlander has made a huge difference, Palmer said.         

“Even though [field hockey has] been the sport I’ve played for the shortest amount of time, it’s just the one I love the most,” Openlander said.

Openlander said she wanted to coach because she still loves field hockey. To her it’s one of those sports that she just can’t get enough of. Mostly Openlander said she wanted to stay involved with the sport. She likes being able to teach the players and share with them the things she loved the most about field hockey.

One of Openlander’s favorite moments playing KHS field hockey was when KHS was losing three-to-one against Ladue High School. KHS came back and scored another goal, then Openlander scored two more goals. KHS ultimately won the game. Openlander said a local radio station at her game announced her as player of the game on air.

“I would say that [coaching] taught me I need to be patient, because when you’re so close to the game and you think about the game a certain way, you assume that everybody thinks that way,” Openlander said. “It’s definitely been a challenge to realize that [each girl] thinks about the game in a different way.”

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