An undefeated regular season at any level of competition is never a small achievement. For teams at the top, that alone isn’t enough; those teams aim for championships.
The Clarksburg varsity girls’ field hockey team went unbeaten for the first time in the school’s 13-season history this past fall, going 12-0 in regular season play.
Head coach Sissy Natoli, who’s coached the Coyotes’ field hockey and girls’ basketball teams each of those 13 years, knows her team isn’t satisfied just going 12-0. This year, the Coyotes want to go all the way to the state finals.
“Sometimes you dream about a season like this, and I feel like they’ve reached that one goal, but we’re not done and they know we’re not done,” she said of her players. “If you stop at being 12-0 and you don’t take people seriously in the playoffs, you’re going to lose.”
Clarksburg has steadily improved the past few years, finishing with a better record and going one round further in the postseason each year since 2015. The team won the 4A West regional final last year before falling to Dulaney 2-0 in the state semifinals.
“We’ve been trying for four years to just get that perfect season,” said senior midfielder Anna Bertrand. “We’ve always had just one game where we’ve not really been able to get all the way through, but we’ve worked so hard for it — and I’m really happy that we finally got here.”
“I’ve never played with a team that has wanted to win so badly,” said senior forward Charlotte Pond. “Honestly, it’s coming from heart; we just want to win.”
Under the on-field leadership of the Lady Coyotes four captains — Bertrand and Pond, along with senior forward/midfielder Rachel Oh, and junior defender Joanna Yoo — the Coyotes have epitomized giving a full team effort this season, according to Natoli.
“Last year’s group coming in, we already expected certain players to step it up, [and] those are the ones we counted on from the previous year,” Natoli said. “This year, there’s so many players that have made a huge step up, and it wasn’t expected to happen so early in the season.”
Clarksburg wasn’t without a few close scrapes during the regular season that could have gone either way: The team won 3-2 in overtime against Poolesville and earned 1-0 wins over Quince Orchard and Walter Johnson earlier this fall.
“We play every opponent like it’s always going to be a tough battle, and we always have to try our best to be the one on top at the end,” Oh said.
Heading into the sectional semifinals against Gaithersburg Wednesday evening, Bertrand leads Clarksburg with 22 goals, 14 assists and 58 total points on the year. Good stats will only bring a team so far against the best teams, though. Gaithersburg is winless this season.
However, the Lady Coyotes are not overlooking the Trojans. “I think all the teams we play are difficult teams that we have to power through,” Yoo said. “I think it’s more [about] having our mindset straight throughout the game.”
Natoli and the Coyotes’ coaching staff has aimed to bring more consistency into the team’s game throughout the season, along with having the ball change fields more often to be unpredictable to opponents.
“In the beginning of the season, everything was either right side or left side, but nothing changing fields,” Natoli said. “When you change fields, it keeps everybody engaged in the game.”
Clarksburg has emphasized grit as a key value since the school’s inception in 2006. The team going undefeated this regular season has been nothing short of a gritty, ambition-driven performance.
For the Coyotes, they’re hoping it’s merely a stepping stone to their ultimate goal of the state championship.
“I think we’re all just really pumped for it,” Bertrand said. “It’s going to be a fantastic playoffs and we’re really hoping to go far.”
Clarksburg’s sectional semifinal against Gaithersburg is scheduled for 6:00 pm tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Clarksburg. The winner will face the winner of Northwest and Quince Orchard in the 4A West sectional finals on Oct. 29.
Top: Senior captains Charlotte Pond and Anna Bertrand at Clarksburg Field Hockey practice on Monday, as they prepare for a post-season run.
Next: Junior captain Joanne Yoo and senior captain Rachel Oh at practice on Monday, preparing for an opening round playoff matchup with Gaithersburg.
Next: Senior captain Charlotte Pond at practice on Monday.
Next: Senior captain Anna Bertrand leads the Coyotes with 22 goals and 14 assists this year.
Next: Coach Sissy Natoli is hoping her 13th season at Clarksburg will remain perfect all the way through to a state title.
Photos by Billy Owens for Germantown Pulse