The Slippery Rock Women’s Field Hockey team has consistently increased its winning percentage since 2018. After back-to-back double-digit loss seasons in 2018 and 2019 followed by COVID-19 canceling the 2020 season, The Rock has a winning record for the first time since 2017. Coach Rayell Wallace attributes the continued growth and success to a number of things.
“The team did a lot of work over the last, really over the last two to two and a half years to be where we are today,” Wallace said. “Not just work on the field but also in the weight room and definitely in the team meetings we had to improve the culture and really get to where we are today.”
It has been evident to Wallace since the beginning of her coaching tenure in 2019 that the girls had talent. She made it her goal and her job to help the team reach its’ ceiling and everyone is now reaping the benefits.
“There’s a lot of things that they improved on, their skill has improved, their understanding of the game,” Wallace said.
If you asked Wallace, she would say that the key to unlocking the best possible play out of players is a combination of confidence in oneself and confidence in each other. Playing as hard as possible without fear is how the girls in white and green have begun to unlock their full potential.
Erin Roland has experienced probably the greatest statistics gain of this mentality. She has a team-leading five goals and twelve points. Wallace commended her play while also making sure to credit the playmakers around Roland.
Wallace also commented that the team is doing very well with playing through each other and looking to everyone for leadership.
“The understanding and respect that the players have between each other has been the biggest improvement,” Wallace said. “We believe that everybody can lead in their own way.”
Wallace made sure to explain that much of this teamwork and leadership comes from an emphasis placed on intensity in games, in practice, and in the weight room. If her players are able to maintain their big moment ferocity throughout every aspect of every game and their preparation, they cannot be outworked and thus put as much pressure on their opponents as possible. That is Wallace’s plan, and it has been working.
“We’re always going to work intensely and you can say that in the weight room as well,” Wallace said.
Perhaps the best example of this was The Rock’s dominant 5-0 victory over Wingate University on Oct. 2. Slippery Rock jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the 20th minute of the game but never stopped the intensity. Roland ended the game with two goals and an assist.
Wallace’s impact on her players’ mindset is evident and she is excited about how they have accepted her teachings and incorporated them into their game.
“A lot of it is the improvement in the culture… the increase in the standards has gotten us to where we are right now,” Wallace said.
Her team has enjoyed non-stop improvement over the last few years and that can be attributed to Wallace’s consistency in raising the bar and never stopping pushing her players to be their best selves.
Going forward Wallace feels good about the team getting better and just wants them to keep playing off of each other and playing with zero quit. There is a lot of season left and Wallace’s main hope for the rest of this season would be the girls continuing their growth into becoming the best players that they can be.
The last time Slippery Rock field hockey finished above .500, they made playoffs. That is the goal again this year.
When asked how to increase their record further above .500 and reach the true heights of the team’s capabilities, Wallace responded, “I would say to not be scared of their potential.”