‘Grit’ helps Villa Duchesne win field hockey title

It'd been 10 years since Villa Duchesne won a state field hockey championship. The 2017 team believed that was long enough.

The Saints fought hard against a tough team from Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS) Oct. 28, battling to a 1-1 tie through two overtimes. They thought they'd won at the end of the second overtime, but referees ruled that the goal had occurred after time expired.

But Villa Duchesne scored twice in five tries during the shootouts to seal the 2-1 victory in the Midwest Field Hockey championship game at SportPort in Maryland Heights.

Villa Duchesne got outstanding goaltending all game from senior Emma Deines. Deines was aggressive all game and at her best in the shootouts, swatting away the ball as soon as she could. "I had so many emotions running through my head," she said. "I focused on just one thing — I gotta go out and win this for my team."

The team worked hard all season to prepare for a championship game, Deines said. "It was great to come out here, battle hard and get the win."

Her play matched her teammates' toughness, she said. "We always say 'You gotta have grit, you gotta have heart.' We knew we had to fight for it, and we did. It's an amazing feeling."

Villa Duchesne finished the season with a 27-2 record and on a 19-game winning streak. Their coach, Kate Graft, told them how proud she was of each one and how they "fought tooth and nail all season."

Graft praised her players for never quitting even if things don't go their way. They faced an MICDS team with "phenomenal players" but didn't back down. "It was back and forth and back and forth. I knew our team could fight through," she said.

After the goal was disallowed, her team kept fighting and saw it as just another adversity to overcome, Graft said. "We dealt with it, and just moved on."

Villa Duchesne's goal in regulation came from Taryn Tkachuk, who brought the ball in all alone and didn't miss the opportunity. MICDS tied the game up with about two minutes left in the half after a series of calls went against Villa Duchense. Villa's goalie made several big saves, including a couple on breakaways, and Villa just missed the goal on opportunities in the second half and in overtime.

Deines knew exactly what she was doing in goal, her coach said. "She stayed on her feet and kept moving. Our confidence level was high during the shootout."

Graft has helped her team all season learn about how to deal with adversity. "When you miss a stroke, when you don't get to play as much as you want, when something just doesn't go your way, the way you react is what's going to determine the outcome of the game. If you pout, moan, give up, you're going to lose a game. Our attitude is to turn it and go, turn it into a positive. And that's what we did."

Prayer is a big thing as a team and individually, she said, and that relates to handling adversity as well.

MICDS beat Cor Jesu 1-0 in regulation in the semifinals of the Midwest Field Hockey tournament and Villa beat Nerinx 1-0 in shootouts. Villa Duchesne won the championship in 2007, 2001, 1998, 1995, 1989, 1987, 1986, 1984 and 1982.

St. Joseph's Academy defeated Villa Duchesne last season in the semifinals of the tournament. St. Joseph's won the 2016 championship 2-1 in overtime vs. Cor Jesu Academy. 

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