Confident Villa Duchesne team helps coach to 200th win

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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Confidence goes a long way in sports.

Villa Duchense's field hockey team is riding a wave of confidence into the playoffs, having defeated major rivals and solid St. Joseph's Academy, Lafayette and Cor Jesu Academy teams during the season.

Brooke Behan, a Villa Duchesne junior, said the team's four seniors lead the way. "We have a younger team without many seniors, but the seniors we do have are very strong," Behan said. "We've known since the beginning of the season that we've wanted to be very successful ... we are headed to postseason and are very excited about it."

Villa coach Kate Graft earned her 200th victory as a high school coach when her team defeated John Burroughs 2-0 Oct. 9. It was the team's 22nd victory of the season to go with just two losses. It also was Villa's 14th win in a row, with just one more regular season game to go.

Taryn Tkachuk, the metro area's leading scorer, made a sharp pass to Suzy Kiefer for the team's first goal, then scored a short while later in the first half to put her team up by two goals. Villa Duchesne controlled the ball in its opponent's zone for much of the game.

After the game, the players honored their coach with a banner, flowers and balloons. "We're a very confident team as you can see," Behan said about the team's foresight to celebrate the victory.

Behan pointed to the Lafayette game as special to her because Villa came from behind to get the 3-2 win and because Lafayette is where Graft played and formerly coached.

Harriett Hudspeth, a sophomore at Villa Duchesne, said this year continues a bonding between older and younger players that she experienced last season on the varsity. "Practices are so fun, and we're always ready to play when there's a game," she said.

She appreciates Graft's positve attitude. Graft coached her while she was in grade school and coached her sisters at Villa Duchesne. Hudspeth's mom played the sport as well. "It's a big tradition in our family," she said.

Defeating John Burroughs' was a goal for the team, Hudspeth said, because they didn't want Graft to wait for her 200th victory.

John Burroughs was a worthy opponent with a unique style of play, Graft said. "They make a lot of nice passes, so we needed to adjust our press to that, and it took a little while to get that going," the coach said. "Their goalkeeper is phenomenal, made a ton of great saves and stopped up our offense a bit. We're very happy to get the win. It just wasn't as pretty as we'd like it to be."

Effort and attitude are what players can control, and a coach needs a positive attitude to help players be hard-working and positive, Graft said. "By being supportive of the girls, even if they make a mistake, we can make corrections, and positivity will roll onto them."

Well-balanced with four seniors, seven juniors, five sophomore and three juniors, the players "appreciate what each other brings to the team," Graft said.

Ahead is simply "tidying things up, refining things and being prepared for each opponent" in the playoffs, Graft said.

Faith is "a big part of our team, especially being a Sacred Heart school," Behan said. 

>> 200 wins

Coach Kate Graft of Villa Duchesne won her 200th game Oct. 9. Afterward, she gave credit to her players through the years.

"The talent I've had in my coaching career has been just awesome," Graft said. "You don't win games without players. I'm thrilled to get my 200th win with this team because they've worked so hard."

Graft is a 2008 graduate of Indiana University where she was a four-year Division 1 field hockey player and ranks second in all-time career points. She received her bachelor's degree in kinesiology with a teaching certification in physical education and health.

In high school, Graft played field hockey at Lafayette where she was the 2003-04 St. Louis Player of the Year, a two-time NFHCA All-American selection. She was involved extensively with the USA Field Hockey program as member of the USAFH U-19 Futures Elite Team, National Futures Championship team, and Junior Olympics.

Graft was the head field hockey coach at Lafayette, as well as the regional coaching director for USA Field Hockey Futures Program. She currently serves as the coaching director for the Gateway Field Hockey Club. In 2012, Graft was selected as the NFHCA National High School Coach of the Year.

Graft became head coach at Villa Duchesne in 2013. 

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