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12/28/2022 10:25 AM

Rice was Nice as Valley Field Hockey Captain and Defender

Valley Regional field hockey team senior captain Madeline Rice was a consummated and committed leader for the Warriors, as she moved to defense this past fall and helped Valley pitch eight shutouts in returning to the Shoreline and state tournaments. Photo courtesy of Madeline Rice

Most high school student athletes go through changes throughout the course of their entire careers. Yet for Madeline Rice, she made a monumental metamorphosis during her senior year in both her on and off the field designations for the Valley Regional field hockey team.

The Warriors’ senior captain played basketball, softball, and soccer growing up before she was introduced to field hockey in 2nd grade, and continued the sport throughout the years all the way up to Valley Regional.

After playing on offense her previous three campaigns, Madeline was moved to defense this past fall. While helping to lead the defense on the field and the squad off the turf as captain, Madeline helped the Warriors go 8-7-3 overall in making the Shoreline Conference and Class S State tournaments after Valley posted eight total shutouts this season.

“I was a little worried at first playing defense. I wasn’t used to it, and I saw myself as an offensive-minded person,” says Madeline. “It actually helped me out, because I was able to think critically about what the offensive player will do next before they do it due to my background on offense. I loved the people I played with on defense, and I had a lot of fun playing it. There are a lot of technical components with the sport, such as different ways to hit the ball and dribbling, which I like. I also love how the flow of the game is so much more different than any other sport I’ve played.”

Madeline mentions she loves when every tier of the turf seamlessly flows and connects to create a goal while manning the defensive front. She additionally adores when a crucial stop is made as she serves as the last line between the attacking player and the goalkeeper.

“It is a great feeling when you go up to an opposing offensive player, take the ball from them, bring it up to the midfield, and then to the wing players for a goal,” Madeline says. “It is so extremely satisfying to see a play like that follow through. It’s also great to stop a ball and know you saved a goal. In the regular season this year versus Granby Memorial, the keeper stopped the ball, but then I came up and stopped the offensive player that was coming to the cage, and it was great.”

Through her transition to the opposite side of the ball this past fall, Madeline became well accustomed to the time-honored truth that communication is key.

“I have seen myself become a better leader and communicator,” says Madeline. “I found myself building relationships I would not have been able to build without field hockey. You need to communicate so you know what needs to be done out there.”

Being a captain was certainly a daunting task but not too tall for Madeline, with the Warriors finding a new identity after graduating several seniors from the 2021 edition of the team. She reflects that it made her job all the more rewarding at the end of the day.

“Being captain was hard at first; we had 11 seniors leave from last year, so we had to rebuild, and I played an essential role in that,” Madeline says. “Part of my role was to help mend the pieces to put the team together and show we could perform well as a team. As captain, your teammates look up to you as a role model. I strived to have my teammates’ trust this year, because without that trust and bond, you don’t have a team.”

Someone who saw Madeline’s marvelous efforts firsthand and truly appreciated her selflessness was Warriors’ field hockey Head Coach Randy Netsch.

“Madeline has always exemplified the type of athlete every coach hopes for,” says Netsch. “She is intelligent, hard working, and always has well-thought out ideas for game play. This year, when we lost one of our best defenders in the preseason with a season-ending injury, Madeline moved to the defense. She has always put the team’s best interests before her own. As captain, she was an irreplaceable asset to her teammates and coaches. She was an excellent role model to her teammates in everything she did and will be surely missed.”

Finally, Madeline looks back at her Warriors’ tenure with great gratitude for the friendships forged and ever-lasting memories made from it via a tiny but close-knit community.

“With Valley field hockey, we are small but mighty. With field hockey in our district, you do not get much exposure until 9th grade,” Madeline says. “But most importantly, this team was a great group of people brought together. I would not have met these great people without field hockey. It was a great team of people, and it was just great to be part of that. I did not realize this until after my last game in states this year, but I will really miss field hockey here.”