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ALL-AREA FIELD HOCKEY: As Hull found game, Chargers found leader
READ MORE: All-Area Field Hockey Capsules.
Four years ago Chancellor’s Katherine Hull was a little girl with some hockey skills—pretty good with a stick in her hands but often unsure of herself and unsure of how she should play.
Today Hull is a confident young lady, a few months away from her first semester at William & Mary, and the glue that held together a two-time state champion.
And for that, she thanks her Charger teammates and coaches.
“I would still be that same little freshman if it wasn’t for my teammates and [Chancellor coach Jim] Larkin and all the coaches pushing me,” said Hull, the 2013 Free Lance–Star field hockey player of the year. “I would not be where I am today.”
Where she is today can be measured by what you don’t hear Larkin yelling from the sidelines. The Chancellor coach often yells very specific directions to his charges: Pull left find space shoot!
And it was no different for Hull when she was a freshman and sophomore, placed in the middle of the Chancellor attack and expected to balance the offense and defense, and keep her team playing as one.
“Part of that, I think, is she had watched her older sister play here,” said Larkin, who also coached Kelsea Hull, a standout who graduated in 2011. “She was trying to find her role and her niche in the program.”
But the pleas from Larkin towardshis center midfielder grew quieter and less frequent the last two years, as the coach and player found an understanding between each other.
Larkin remembers a practice this fall when he and Hull paired up in a passing drill. The two had such a feel for each other, they made an unbeatable duo—coach and player understanding where the other should be, and where the ball should go.
“We were on the same page, knowing how the ball is and how to play it,” Larkin said. “She distributes the ball so well.”
“We understand each other better,” Hull added. “Once you have him as a coach for a while, you know all the stuff he tells you, it’s things that you know will benefit the team.
“I feel like each player has their own style, and he knows his own players very well.”
Hull finished the 2013 season with 25 goals and an astounding 44 assists. She benefited from three solid finishers across the forward line—Kate Colley, Chelsea Galera and Chloe Fernandez—and a team-oriented defense behind her.
And playing as a team is what Hull likes best.
The Chargers’ state championship opponents (Tabb last year, Lakeland this year) may have had better individual players, but on the biggest stage it was Chancellor that played better team hockey.
“That’s just so much fun,” Hull said. “When it’s quick and crisp? That’s the best feeling ever. You’re just on a roll.
“I’d much rather have us together as a team and not giving up and losing, than being stuck-up and not working together. I’d much rather win as a team. That’s what I live for.”
It also helped, Larkin said, that Hull’s love for Charger hockey was unmatched. Every win, every loss, every moment was meaningful.
“She lives and breathes the Chancellor program,” Larkin said. “It meant more for her than other kids, and it was easy to see.
“You can’t question her passion for the program or the game. She’s constantly got a ball. We’d be at practice and call for a water break and you’d turn around and there she is juggling the ball off by herself.”
Next year there will be a new center midfielder at Chancellor, and Larkin will probably be at it again, trying to direct his play-caller like a video gamer steering his avatar across the screen.
It’ll take some time to develop the connection he enjoyed with Hull, and the trust the two demonstrated on the field the last two seasons.
“She’s probably the most talented kid I’ve coached in 20 years,” Larkin said. “She can do things with the ball that none of our other kids can do.
“Yes, she’s a great hockey player, but she’s an even better person.”
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045