It’s rare to have a freshman who contributes to a varsity squad in any sport. A team that has one considers itself fortunate, because the talented neophyte may well blossom into a transcendent star. Two freshmen making significant contributions is off the charts.
In 2006, Rye’s field hockey team had two of these special athletes – Olivia Nabhan and Torie Stearns. Today, in their fourth and final season as Garnets, the senior captains are nearing the end of a run that can be best described as triumpant. Rye has posted a combined record of 71-7-2 with one New York State championship (2007) and four League titles since Stearns and Nabhan first donned varsity uniforms.
“The secret to the team’s success is just playing as hard as you possibly can,” said Nabhan, the tough-as-nails firecracker. Stearns, the liquid-smooth scorer, finished her teammate’s thought. “It’s about running until the clock stops and always believing you’ll find a way.”
Although Stearns and Nabhan place team success above individual glory, it’s hard not to be awed by their on-field accomplishments. Stearns has scored 79 goals and recorded 36 assists in her career. Nabhan, who is the backbone of the Garnet defense this season, has 35 goals – including the game-winner in double overtime of the 2007 State championship – and 57 assists.
“Celebrating on the big ‘G’ at midfield after we score a goal is the thing I’m always going to remember about being a Garnet,” said Nabhan. She was also quick to point out her partner-in-crime’s penchant for delivering inspirational speeches. Stearns played it down, but did admit she leads the team in meditation sessions – or what they call “visualization” – prior to games this season.
“We’re a different team with a new philosophy,” said Stearns, who – with Nabhan – would pump the 2008 team up by belting out The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”.
Together, the duo has amassed eight All-League, five All-Section, and five All-State honors, and both are nominated for All-American distinction this season. But perhaps their greatest contribution to the Garnets was bridging the gap between two generations. Many questioned the direction of the program when Kevin Kelly was removed as head coach just two months after leading Rye to the 2007 State title. Kelly was an institution at the school, amassing four State championships and 398 wins in 28 years at the helm. Thanks in part to Stearns and Nabhan, as well as the seniors at the time, the Garnets transitioned smoothly and went 18-1-1 in 2008 under the direction of new head coach Emily Fitzgerald.
“We carried over the good from the Kelly era and combined it with coach Fitzgerald’s philosophy,” said Nabhan. “We’re a family now.”
Stearns and Nabhan say Fitzgerald, who was a field hockey star at the University of Vermont, was instrumental in their committing to play the sport in college. Nabhan will head to Colgate University next fall, and Stearns will be at Brown.
Friends since the 2nd grade, Rye’s dynamic duo said it’s going to be weird not having one another as teammates. It’s a fact they’re sad about, but also one that has them inspired to make one last run at a State championship.
“We’ve evolved a lot since we were that freshman forward tandem,” said Stearns. “We’ve always been a team that plays together, and that’s something that is especially important in the playoffs. It would be great to win it again, but we just have to take it one game at a time.”