WILMINGTON — For most high school athletic teams, if there is a sickness going through one household, the team just turns to another member of the roster. But in the case of the St. Elizabeth High School field hockey team, if the cold hits the Shields or Chapman families, the team could be in a real dilemma.
The Vikings have played the entire season with 11 girls on the roster, which happens to be the number of players on the field. Five of them come from just two families: Jessica, Samantha and Maddie Shields, and Megan and Danielle Chapman. They and the other girls on the team have become like a family, having a good time representing the school while going through their ups and downs.
Both sets of siblings have family connections to St. Elizabeth. The Shields attended grade school there and have followed others to the high school. Jess, a junior, is in her third year playing the sport, while Samantha, a sophomore, and freshman Maddie have been at it for two years each. Jess said friends approached her when she was a freshman and said the team needed players. She thought it would be worth a try.
“I had a friend join with me the first day at lunch. I went, ‘Do you want to do it? I’ll do it if you do it.,’” she said. The friend, Megan Artymowicz, is still a teammate as well as classmate.
“It’s been fun. The team has definitely changed. We’ve gotten better,” Jess said.
Maddie, the youngest, said when she’s on the field, she doesn’t think about the fact that she’s playing with her sisters.
“It’s just pass to the next player, pass to the next player,” she said.
Of course, there are sibling teammates on many teams, but having three play together in high school is a bit rarer. But not for the Shields. The girls are actually the second trio from their own family to suit up together in the maroon and gold. Their older brothers — Thomas, Matthew and John — were all on the football team together for two seasons, 2015 and ’16.
None of the girls played the sport before getting to high school – Maddie played for the varsity last year as an eighth-grade student. Jess, a defenseman, said their parents reacted with a mix of “where did this come from?” and “go for it” when the girls decided to make this their sport.
“They’ve definitely been supportive always,” she said. “They bought all our gear.”
Sam, who is a forward, as is Maddie, said it’s nice to see other students and parents show up for their games.
“We do well on the field hockey team,” she said. “It’s good to show school spirit.”
The team is 2-10 heading into its final two games of the season, but the record doesn’t tell the whole story. “We always give 100 percent. Even if we’re down, we’re still trying. You can tell from how we play that we’re going at it. We’re just working together.”
The girls said they haven’t grown tired of each other despite living in the same house and playing the same sport for St. Elizabeth. All three said they will be back playing for the Vikings again in 2022. The bond is real.
“I don’t think I’ll join a sport, but if I do, I’ll bring my sisters with me. They’re my support system,” Maddie said.
The other sisters, the Chapmans, are a more veteran duo. Megan is one of two seniors on the roster, and Danielle is a junior. Danielle realizes how important it is for everyone on the team to stay healthy.
“We can’t get sick. It just isn’t a possibility or this is done. Especially if the Shields get sick,” she said.
Danielle and Megan also followed an older sibling to St. Elizabeth from St. John the Beloved School. Megan, in fact, is a triplet. Her brother, Peter, and sister, Joanna, are classmates.
Neither Megan nor Danielle played field hockey before arriving at St. Elizabeth. Megan got a taste of the sport at St. John the Beloved.
“In gym class in eighth grade, we played floor hockey. I remember talking to my dad about it, and he said they play it in high school, too. At that point, I didn’t play a fall sport, so I was like, “OK, I’ll try it,’” she said.
Danielle said she went to some of Megan’s summer league games, and “it was so funny. I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m doing that.’ But then when I came to high school, I also didn’t have a fall sport, and I didn’t want to do cross country, so here I am.”
Both Chapman sisters look beyond the record when measuring the success of the Vikings. To them, there’s more to the game than the final score.
“You look at the scoreboard, and it could be like, 9-0, but if you make one good play, that’s something. That doesn’t go in the books, and it doesn’t go on the scoreboard, but that counts like a win for me,” Danielle said. “Even if we lose 10-0, if we’re playing these state champions, it’s OK.”
Megan said the small size of the team has its advantages. One, they all get lots of playing time, as in all 60 minutes. Second, the members of the team have gotten to know each other very well.
“Even though we’re a really small team, it really encourages that family aspect that other teams don’t see. I think that’s definitely what’s kept us playing. We all like field hockey. We don’t win that often, but we like the team and being with the people that are on the team,” she said.
After Megan graduates, Danielle said she will have to take on the role of recruiter for the Vikings. She’s already honed her sales pitch.
“I think it’s a really good way to meet some upperclassmen, find out that the upperclassmen aren’t that scary. You come in your freshman year, everything’s so new. Why not try a new sport. You might be good at it, you might be bad. But hopefully you’ll like it. I did.”
The Vikings play at McKean on Monday at 3:30 p.m., then wrap up the campaign at Christiana on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.