Nathalie Friedman is our 2017 Player of the Year and Katrina Ross is the 2017 Coach of the Year
by Nelson Coffin
To the victors go the spoils.
The Notre Dame Prep field hockey team had a season for the ages, as they went undefeated, won an IAAM A Conference championship, finished No. 1 in all of the local polls and garnered a spot in the national rankings.
On a squad that had more than one Player of the Year candidate, junior Nathalie Friedman, who had 22 goals and 19 assists, proved to be the best-of-the-best and has been named the 2017 VSN Field Hockey Player of the Year. Likewise, Coach Katrina Ross, who is 32-5 in two seasons, including the undefeated run this fall, is the 2017 VSN Field Hockey Coach of the Year.
See below for our award profiles on each.
NOTRE DAME PREP
2017 FIELD HOCKEY PLAYER OF THE YEAR
With all of the accolades and awards she has already accrued by her junior year at Notre Dame Prep, Nathalie Friedman might have had a reasonable cause to relax for at least part of the season.
After all, she had already committed to Wake Forest, making recruiting a moot point.
Moreover, Friedman was rated among the Top 50 players in the nation by maxfieldhockey.com — and only one of four from Maryland — before the season began.
She is also currently a member of the U.S. U19 National Indoor Team and in training for a spot on the National Indoor Team for its 2018 World Cup Tour.
Yet, when the season opened at a tournament at C. Milton Wright, instead of letting all the hoopla surrounding her go to her head, Friedman put her head down and went to work.
She and the Blazers started off with wins over unranked Bel Air, 4-1, and current No. 5 C. Milton Wright, 3-0, to bolt out of the gate quickly in what was to be a banner campaign.
The midfielder totaled three goals and two assists in the early wins, and NDP was off and running toward sweeping its remaining 16 games, culminating with a 3-1 triumph over No. 4 Garrison Forest in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final.
“We adapted to each other’s playing styles and worked our system,” Friedman said. “And we developed how we would set a precedent for the rest of the year.”
Trailing, 1-0, late in the first half of the championship match, it’s hardly a surprise that she was in perfect position to redirect a shot past Grizzle goalie Tessa Evarts to deadlock the score just 32 seconds before the intermission.
Knowing where to be and when to be there are traits that have marked Friedman’s meteoric career under NDP coach coach Katrina Ross and assistants Donna Ziemba and Christine Medvetz.
It was Friedman’s final and 22nd goal of the season, to go with a hefty 19 assists, as the Blazers finished atop both the IAAM standings and the VSN rankings for the first time in program history.
“I had a really good feeling about this team from our first practice,” she said. “It had that family feel.”
Friedman said that all that she could say to herself when she netted the tying goal in the championship match was that “I’ve got to get it in.”
That kind of straightforward thinking when the chips were down typified the Blazers’ mindset this season.
“We just needed to play our game,” Friedman said about the comeback. “I really don’t think that we panicked. We just kind of kept our cool and stayed with it until the end. We didn’t get frustrated with each other and we kept persevering. And in the end we came out on top.”
Other than the championship game, she said that her favorite moment came after winning a taut 2-1 overtime battle against Archbishop Spalding in a closely contested A Conference semifinal.
“It was a special moment,” she said. “And when our fans piled on us at the end, that was really special.”
Ziemba noted that Friedman was a “warrior” in that game.
“Spalding marked her and double-teamed her whenever she had possession,” Ziemba said. “She was knocked down to the ground, exhausted. But she fought through.”
Ross said that, although Friedman, whose freshman sister, Pyper, is a rising star on the team, has the skill to play many positions, midfield suits her best.
“She gravitated toward the midfield,” the 2017 VSN Field Hockey Coach of the Year said. “That’s where she’s most comfortable. That’s her home.”
NOTRE DAME PREP
2017 FIELD HOCKEY COACH OF THE YEAR
In a torrid two-year stretch at Notre Dame Prep, Katrina Ross has reached the mountaintop.
A 3-1 triumph over No. 4 Garrison Forest last month in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final confirmed what many observes had figured out a while ago — that she has built a juggernaut at the Towson all-girls Catholic school.
Considering that NDP finished 18-0, is ranked 17th nationally by maxfieldhockey.com, claimed its first IAAM crown and rose to No. 1 in the VSN final rankings, Ross was the obvious choice to be the 2017 VSN Field Hockey Coach of the Year for her efforts.
Bouncing back from a bitter loss to McDonogh in the 2016 A Conference title match on a untimed play at the end of regulation only gave Ross and the Blazers motivation and momentum to make 2017 their own.
“We were set from the beginning that we had unfinished business,” Ross said. “We had a lot of alumni support as well, and we wanted to do it for them, and we wanted to make a statement that our program is turning around, and that we’re a force to be reckoned with in the state of Maryland. And I think we proved that.”
She now owns a gaudy 32-5 mark after two stellar campaigns for a program that has the chance to rattle off several more titles with Ross at the helm.
“We only had one senior starter, so it’s really promising for next year, too,” said Ross, a mother of four and an emergency room nurse practitioner at Carroll General Hospital in Westminster.
What exactly did she bring to the table to make NDP so much more formidable in 2017 than it was last fall?
Ross said that having more field hockey-oriented athletes, such as 2017 VSN Field Hockey Player of the Year Nathalie Friedman and host of other talented — and young — players, keyed the surge to perfection.
“The biggest difference is the different athletes that we have,” she said. “Last year, we had these stellar athletes who wanted to play and wanted to win. And they did that, turning the year around for us. This year we had that group of core athletes, girls that just play hockey all the time, dedicated to field hockey with a high hockey I.Q. We were able to do some fun and different things, with a high skill level.”
Winning the championship by going unbeaten and untied put the Blazers in a special place by becoming the first team to accomplish that remarkable feat since Garrison Forest went 21-0 in 2012.
“We played with a play-to-win attitude,” she said. “There were a couple of games where you could tell that it was weighing on them and they were playing not to lose, and we shifted that mindset. We told them, ‘You know, guys, we have nothing to lose. We’re trying to build this program and take it to the next level. You just need to relax and have fun. You know how to play.’ In our best games, we just had beautiful, amazing short passes……That’s when we were at our best. When we play the small game, we’re the best in the state.”
Of course, Ross is the first to admit that her assistant coaches, Donna Ziemba and Christine Medvetz, played a major role in the team’s success.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said.
Ziemba said that Ross’ enthusiasm for the sport — she played at Centennial in Howard County before playing at Temple — is contagious.
“Katrina bring excitement to the organization,” she said. “And she takes it to the next level in preparing the kids for playing in college. They just have so much fun, that the girls are sad when there is no practice.”