South Kam girls ‘Kash’ in on coach’s field-hockey knowledge
Running around in skirts holding candy-cane shaped sticks is not what most teenage girls do in Kamloops when the cold begins to arrive.
That’s why South Kam’s field hockey girls are in a league of their own.
“It takes a special individual to excel at field hockey,” said South Kam teacher Kash Dhaliwal, who has coached the Titans’ field hockey team since 1995.
“It does take time for these girls to hone their skills, but the enthusiasm they show for it is phenomenal.”
The Titans, ranked 10th in the province, had their best season in school history this year, placing sixth at the AAA provincial championship, which was held in Kelowna last month.
South Kam’s inexperience as a team, relative to its counterparts from the Coast, makes qualifying for provincials, let alone placing sixth, an impressive feat.
“I had no idea about the game whatsoever when I first joined,” said Grade 12 student Chelsea Reith, who joined the team in Grade 9.
“One of my friends told me and I laughed at her because I thought I didn’t want to run around with a candy cane and a skirt.
“Then, once I actually started playing, it was a lot of fun.”
Not only did the team have fun this season, it attracted scouts from post-secondary schools across the nation.
The universities of Alberta, Calgary, Victoria, B.C. and Guelph, along with York University in Toronto, were in contact with Dhaliwal, inquiring about many of the players on the Titans’ roster.
Mei Lin Cheung, one of South Kam’s captains, is considering attending UVIC, in part because of an offer to try out for the field hockey team.
“They showed interest and there’s possibilities of playing for them,” the centre midfielder told KTW.
“I might as well do something I really enjoy as well as going to university. They are willing to offer a scholarship, too.”
Two final scores from the Titans’ run at provincials show how close the team came to a top-three finish.
South Kam lost 1-0 to South Delta in the quarter-final and fell 2-1 to Carson Graham of North Vancouver in the round-robin.
Many of the South Delta girls play on regional, provincial and national teams and Carson Graham won silver at provincials, losing to the Handsworth Royals of North Vancouver in the final.
“We’re just a high school-based team, as opposed to some of the teams we play on the Coast that are club-based high-school teams,” said Dhaliwal, who teaches computer programming, web design, video-game making, animation and marketing at South Kam.
“This group of girls we had this year may not be the most skilled, but they commited to team defence.”
The Titans lost to West Vancouver in penalty strokes in the game that decided fifth and sixth place at provincials.
Left to stand in the way of her opponents’ unimpeded shots during that shootout was goaltender Larissa Piva, who earned a spot at a national junior selection camp, along with standout Titans’ forward Emily Bennett.
“It’s insane because I just started playing last year and the opportunity presented itself to me,” said Piva, a Grade 11 student.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe it.”
The regular season runs from September to October. South Kam’s girls practise from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Dhaliwal has fielded at least one team every year since 1995, but has not always had the numbers for both junior and senior teams.
“I’ll keep coaching as long as I’m here and as long as I have kids that keep coming out,” Dhaliwal said.
“The reward for me is just seeing these kids excel and grow as they come in new to the sport.
“They may not remember any single game, but they’ll remember that they were part of a team and they’ll remember the fun they had.”
The 2011 Titans’ field hockey girls: Chelsea Reith, Mei Lin Cheung, Rosie Langford, Dale Drozda, Nikki Fredrikson, Emily Bennett, Danika Thibault, Sam Hoffbeck, Monica Maher, Erinn Kaay, Michelle Fortier, Jillian Armstrong, Kailee Mortimer, Drew Drozda, Jennifer Sage, Larissa Piva, Sarah Bickerton and Brooke Bazian.