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Oct. 1, 2015

In this week’s Q&A, the sophomore back Rachael Ulsh talks about winning two high school state titles and two Player of the Year awards as a defender, her penchant for film making and tells us what’s up with that horse.

When did you start playing field hockey?
“My freshman year of high school at Westfield [in Centreville, Va.]. I was also on a club team since the same year and my high school coach was also my club coach. After the first year, I really loved it so I knew I wanted to keep playing it in college.”

Were you always a defender?
“Yes, my first position was left back in high school and I played some sweeper in high school and then coming here I played center back.”

You helped lead Centreville to its first-ever state title. What was that like?
“That was really cool because we had come close for a few years. My sophomore year, we went to states and then we were building each year. We had some really good players on those teams. A few of my friends went to play on in college as well. One went William and Mary and one went to UMass, so us three just tried to get better each year. When we finally won states my senior year, it was amazing.”

While you were at Westfield High, you won two different player of the year honors, which is unusual for a back. What made you such a stand-out defender?
“I think I just made sure that no one was coming in our D circle and I just always stepped up and made myself seen out there. Sometimes it’s hard for defenders to get noticed because we do all the dirty work and don’t score goals and get the big assists. I just kind of played loud and stepped up to the ball.”

And you also won a state title in lacrosse.
“That was cool because both titles were my senior year and I was also captain on the lacrosse team. Even though they’re completely different sports, we learned the mentality of what it meant to be a state championship team. I had a lot of teammates for both sports and we knew what it took and we wanted it just as bad for lacrosse.”

What was the biggest difference about playing field hockey at the collegiate level?
“The speed of it. It’s just a very different pace and it’s at a very high level and it’s hard to fit into that. But they just push and make you a lot better since you’re working against people in practice that are better than your opponents on other teams. That makes you better going into games.”

What is the biggest change in your game since your freshman year?
“Having confidence on the ball and having more body on my attackers that I’m marking even if I’m smaller than they are. Just act bigger and body up all the time and don’t underestimate myself on the field.”

This Friday, you will be playing against one of the top offenses in the country. What will you need to do against UNC and how excited are you for another shot against a top-five team?
“We are really excited. I think it was good to have a top-five game before the UNC game. All of these ACC teams are skilled and aggressive just like us, so it was good to have that last Friday so we’re ready for this week’s game.
“What we need to do is go in to Friday’s game knowing how we play and our strengths and not psyching ourselves out because it’s a big game. We just need to play UVA field hockey because at its best, it can beat any system. We need to go in confident, but not cocky. We need to body up, stay organized, and stay calm.”

One of the most common questions that people ask about this team is ‘what’s up with the horse?’ As Step-Up’s former keeper, please explain to the readers about the stuffed horse on the sideline.
“Step-Up is our mascot and friend. He is always with us. He’s in the locker room and we carry him around to other people’s fields. We might get weird looks, but we don’t care because he is our Step-Up. We bring him to airports and sometimes people ask me if I’m being hazed when I carry him around, but I say no, it’s an honor. We just love him and he represents our mentality on the field that we step-up to the occasion and step-up to the ball.”

You are also the team’s resident movie maker. Your interest in film and video, is this a hobby or something you want to get into?
“I think I want to eventually do something with film or production. I like to make some pump-up videos for big games and videos to make the team laugh when I’m not doing schoolwork. So that’s just a hobby now, but I would like to do something with that in the future. It started in high school when I made pump up videos and highlight reels for my team and bloopers.
“I made one last year for the end of the year snapshot compilation. It was good for the fourth-years because they got all the memories in one video and they really appreciated that. I keep all of our pictures and videos on a file on my computer, so I always have them to make a video.”

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