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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Captain’s Corner, Championship Edition: A chat with field hockey captains Charlotte Marks ’23.5, Audrey Lazar ’23.5 and Katie George

Audrey Lazar ‘23.5 (left), Katie George ‘23.5 (center), and Charlotte Marks ‘23.5 (right) won four national titles during their time with Middlebury Field Hockey.
Audrey Lazar ‘23.5 (left), Katie George ‘23.5 (center), and Charlotte Marks ‘23.5 (right) won four national titles during their time with Middlebury Field Hockey.

The Middlebury field hockey team capped off another successful season with an NCAA Championship win for the sixth straight year. An impressive feat to say the least, their dominance in the sport has been spurred by a relentless pursuit to play at the top of their game. The Panthers maintained an undefeated record and finished 22–0 on the season, beating Johns Hopkins University 2–0 in the final. This was the third straight year the two teams have met in the final, with the Panthers emerging victorious every time. 

The Panthers certainly emphasize the collective effort of their team, but the role of the group’s leaders in their continued success cannot be understated. Audrey Lazar ’23.5 scored in the first quarter of the final on a pass from Katie George ’23.5, giving the Panthers a lead they never gave up. In the third quarter, Lazar again put the ball in the net using an acrobatic shot that secured the Panthers’ lead. For a defense boasting a record 14 shutouts this season, a two goal cushion proved to be all that Charlotte Marks ’23.5 and the rest of the defense needed to seal the win, marking eight straight games of NCAA tournament play for the team without conceding a goal. 

On the heels of the program’s eighth NCAA title, I sat down this week with these three captains to ask them about the season, the team and their future.

Captain Rudolph: Put into perspective how this season’s championship victory differed from the past three. What made this team special? What was different about your playing style?

Katie George: This championship is different from the other ones because for me, it marks the end. While sometimes a scary thought, it makes my career feel complete. This team was so different from any of the other ones because I was a senior and had more responsibility than before. I wanted to pass on everything I have learned in my time on this team to those younger than me. This year it was a goal of mine to not get as many penalty cards. I am happy to say that after leading the team in cards since my freshman year, I only got one in the final four game against Babson. 

CR: Charlotte, you’ve been a rock for this team for the past three years having started at center back in all 66 games of the past three seasons. You’ve played 94% of the possible minutes over that time, averaging only three minutes and 30 seconds off the field each game. What has it meant to you to be able to run the team from the back for all these games?

Charlotte Marks: With time on the field in a position like center back comes knowledge and understanding of the flow of the game and how my teammates play in front of me. I have become so familiar with the tendencies of each of my teammates that I am able to communicate more effectively and facilitate organization with defensive decision-making. While I myself am not taking many shots on the goal, I do my best to use this knowledge to set my teammates up for success and position them well for goal-scoring opportunities. 

CR: Audrey, what a feat to score the two decisive goals in the championship game. Elaborate on how the team looks at scoring and its approach to getting the win. How did it feel to score in the game that led to your fourth national championship with the field hockey team? 

Audrey Lazar: Goals and goal scoring plays are proportionally such a small part of the game. They serve as culminating moments that reflect the amount of energy and collective spirit that goes into the overall effort. Of course, it felt great for the team to score twice in the national championship. These were the moments that took our collective efforts and turned them into tangible results towards winning the championship. 

CR: Katie, with this season’s 23 goals, you’ve moved into third on the all-time leaderboard in goals having scored 70 in your four seasons on the team. What has it meant to be so crucial in contributing to the team's wins as a scorer and as the first line of defense when the opposing teams play out of the back? What have been the most memorable goals of your career? 

KG: We’ve all had so much success scoring, particularly this year because our defense is so strong. They keep the ball out of our defensive zone and give us the confidence to take chances and play risky. In terms of pressing, I always have so much fun with Caroline Segal ’24.5 and Audrey. We make it a game. My favorite goals have been the ones when Audrey and I are rushing up together and one gets an assist and the other gets the goal. In particular, I have to say the first goal against [Johns] Hopkins when she scored so early on was a highlight for me. Nothing beats goals that come early and often. 

CR: Charlotte, here’s the chance to hype up your wonderful goalies that have been your partners in crime for the past four years when it comes to keeping the opposing team from scoring. What can you say about the role of the goalies on this team and how have you personally bonded with them as the center back?

CM: Our goalies deserve all the love for their incredibly hard work throughout the season. Especially on a team like the ones we have had over the past few years – it is arguably more difficult to be a goalie on a team that is only letting up a few shots on goal each game. More than ever, the goalie is challenged to stay highly alert even through longer periods of inaction to be ready and agile when a shot does come. I have so much respect for our goalkeepers, and it has been an honor to work so closely with KK Newton ’24 and Grace Harlan ’22.5 over the years. Being on the same page as your goalkeeper and understanding the types of saves that they are willing and able to make in each scenario is of utmost importance to finding success in the defensive zone. 

CR: Audrey, we mentioned that you have now won four titles with the field hockey team, but this season's win actually solidifies a fifth NCAA national championship win for you as a member of the women’s hockey team that won the national title in 2021. Talk about the feeling of being part of three exemplary programs at the school as you also sprint for the Women’s Track and Field team. How have you used what you’ve learned on the field hockey team to better your game when you hit the ice each winter and get running in the spring?

AL: My experience with Middlebury Athletics has been beyond incredible. The success of each team is not defined by championships and trophies. Every year, each group comes prepared and excited to tackle the challenges ahead. Across all three teams, there is a universal desire to compete and play with joy. Each team has taught me so much about myself, as well as how to be a better teammate and person for others. During each season, I continue to learn, so I am looking forward to a few more months with a great group!

CR: Katie, of all the players I’ve ever interviewed, no one has been as quick to praise their coach as you. Tell me about this special relationship you’ve built with Coach Katharine DeLorenzo. What impact has she had on your life off the field? 

KG: Being on this team expedites the process of growing up and maturing. In just four years here my teammates and I have faced varying levels of adversity and difficulty that most people don't encounter until post-grad or even late into their 20s. [Coach DeLorenzo] has expertly guided me and many of my teammates in navigating this growing-up process at two times the speed. She’s offered such crucial guidance, comfort, and anything I needed to help me through those tough times. She has the ability to help us realize our own strength and guide us in the right direction. 

CR: Charlotte, considering you’ve spent the last three seasons at the helm and will be graduating this February, tell us a little bit about who will be stepping in at center back next season?

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CM: There are lots of rising young stars on our team, so it’s hard to say what decisions [Coach DeLorenzo] will make next season. However, what I can say is that [Coach DeLorenzo] has an eye for things like this and I trust that she will make her decisions with lots of care and consideration for all of the attributes that a center back needs. I think ultimately the decision will come down to who is playing the surrounding positions and finding “powerful pairs” who bolster and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Editor’s note: this interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.