Field hockey relies on Skrivan's talent and leadership

Some persistence on the part of Head Coach Carol Knerr helped, too, and as a result, for this season and the previous three, fans of the Amherst field hockey team have been rewarded with 15 goals, eight assists, one all-NESCAC year and a bevy of feats that are not so easily quantifiable.

While she didn’t light up the scoreboard or start regularly as a first-year, Skrivan appeared in all 15 games-at least 10 more than any of her field-playing classmates. Her performance was enough to earn her a spot in the starting 11 as a sophomore. Skrivan led the team in goals that year with seven, but her most memorable contribution in 2003 came not as a midfielder (her listed position) but, surprisingly enough, with her back to the goal.

Without a backup goalkeeper on the roster, the Jeffs were lucky that goalie K.C. Cosentino ’05 stayed healthy for the entire 11-5 season. But when a family emergency pulled Cosentino off the field for an Oct. 11 tilt at Colby College, Amherst was in a bind.

The Jeffs went into the early-season game with a 3-1 NESCAC record and ranked 17th in the nation; Colby was ranked 19th at the time.

“We were having such a great year,” said Skrivan, “and to have that one loss would be horrible.”

A day or so before the game, recalled Knerr, Skrivan entered the coach’s office and said, “‘I just wanted to let you know, I have played goalie before.'”

Despite the importance of her presence in the midfield, Skrivan, who played goalie as a freshman in high school, ended up between the pipes. With sheer will and incredible athleticism, she turned away eight shots while allowing just two goals to give Amherst the 3-2 win.

The senior tri-captain hasn’t worn the goalie pads since, but she has been a relentless force on the pads of goalkeepers all across New England. Revered (and feared) by her teammates for her strong stick, the 5’8″ Skrivan must cut a terrifying figure for opposing goalies when she enters the scoring circle with the ball on her stick, or when she leans back to let loose a screamer while playing striker on the team’s offensive corners.

“I am so lucky that I have never been hit by one of her balls,” said tri-captain forward Erin O’Hare ’06, “and if I did, I would probably be out for a game or so.”

Skrivan recorded 31 and 37 shots in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and leads the 2005 squad with 12 shots in just three games. She recorded six goals last year, one fewer than as a sophomore, but at the same time she had six assists in contrast to just one sophomore year.

In just three games in 2005, Skrivan has scored twice and added one assist, but she’s had a hand in nearly all of the 3-0 squad’s eight goals.

“As the center midfielder, she is pretty much always one pass away from the ball,” said Knerr.

Knerr and Skrivan’s teammates also admire her on-field vision and passing skills; Skrivan admits that her field presence has improved since her freshman year.

But a player can’t simply be measured by simple athletic skill or how many goals she’s scored (or prevented), and Skrivan has managed to inspire her teammates with her work ethic and her ability to play through injuries.

The all-NESCAC midfielder has suffered from chronic back injuries since high school and as a result must put in at least an hour in the training room before practices and games. In a 1-0 victory over Connecticut College last year, Skrivan scored the winning goal in overtime after suffering a broken thumb in regulation.

“She’s so tough,” said Knerr. “To be able to play through the pain she plays through on a daily basis is incredible.”

Knerr touted Skrivan as “a leader through her skill” who “sets a high standard for her teammates” through her own intensity. “She’s just a total team player,” said Knerr. “She’ll do whatever the team needs.”

Skrivan’s teammates agreed with this assessment.

“She leads the team with confidence and takes responsibility for the team as a captain,” said O’Hare, who also called her classmate “a force on the field.” On Saturday, O’Hare scored one of Amherst’s two goals in a win over Bates College courtesy of a Skrivan assist.

Added junior midfielder Rachel Carr-Harris (who scored Amherst’s second goal on Saturday), “Skrivan has very good vision on the field and has exhibited great vocal leadership.”

“She is key to our midfield and has made some very important decisions for us on the field, and some beautiful goals,” said Carr-Harris.

Leadership isn’t limited to what goes on on the field, however, and the Midwesterner’s teammates appreciate her personal qualities as well.

“Skrivan is thoughtful, enthusiastic and supportive,” said tri-captain forward Molly Gilbert ’06. “She is passionate about our team; you can really tell that she loves Amherst field hockey.”

An American Studies major, Skrivan interned at an investment consulting firm in her hometown this summer. Her senior thesis deals with St. Louis’ voluntary desegregation plan.

“She’s such a strong person, and I’m so confident that she will be successful as she steps out into the real world,” said Knerr. “She’s going to be very missed when she leaves Amherst.”

Skrivan, too, will miss not only the rush of setting up or scoring a goal but also the “little moments” of playing field hockey at Amherst.

“The best thing about playing field hockey here is the team,” she said. “Hanging out in the training room for an hour before practice, getting pumped up in the locker room together, walking down to the field on a beautiful afternoon.”