Over 400 Virginia field hockey players were in Charlottesville this weekend for the field hockey portion of the Commonwealth Games held at the University of Virginia.
Seven regions of the state (Blue Ridge, Coastal, Fredericksburg, Virginia Beach, Potomac, Tidewater and Piedmont) were represented in four different age groups (U14, U16, U19 and adult).
The games were held on the blue turf and lacrosse practice fields at UVa for the second year in a row. The close proximity has given Blue Ridge coach Lindsay Larson more to work with, as players from Charlottesville, Monticello, Orange County and Louisa County are more willing to play with the games in their own backyard.
"This is the second year in a row we were able to get a team for U14, U16 and U19," Larson explained. "In the years past we've only been able to get 1-2 teams and not all three so again, the homefield advantage is nice because we can field teams, and large teams too."
The increase was felt state-wide, as Tournament Director Ashley Ballard said the player pool went up by nearly 100 competitors this year.
"It is wonderful to have so many more girls," Ballard said. "We were able to add another region so we're really expanding the girls, especially the younger group so we can have a pool to grow from."
For the Blue Ridge players, the Tournament gives them a chance to get to know players from other schools they usually face off against.
"It's super cool," Monticello graduate Sarah Hale said. "You never get to talk to them off the field, you always just go against them. To come and play with them on the same team is kind of weird at first but after a while, after you get to know them, you just learn their playing styles even better."
"And it's so much fun getting to play with the girls I'm typically competing against and get to know them," Charlottesville rising senior Kendall Ballard added. "And then later on, when you go play them during the regular season it's like 'Oh hey, how are you? What have you been up to?' So it's really fun to get to know all the girls in the area."
Larson says getting to know the girls she usually gameplans against during the season is her favorite part of the weekend.
"That's probably my favorite thing," she said. "I get to meet the girls from other areas. I like getting to know the other teams and players."