Oct. 10, 2013
"You only learn that when you start losing stuff, you find out that life is just a game of inches."
This quote from Al Pacino in the film "Any Given Sunday" teaches the key to overcoming adversity is taking each day one at a time.
It's also a quote Siena field hockey head coach Kara Zappone has adopted and tried to get across to her team. The Saints are seeking their first win since October 8, 2010, so Zappone's biggest challenge is creating a culture that fosters a winning attitude.
"We are always focused on getting (more), and playing harder," she said. "Our mission is taking one game at a time, one goal at a time. Instead of looking at the end result, our mentality is always on the next game, not the game after it."
In her second year, Zappone has brought a winning reputation from her time as an assistant at Fairfield and her collegiate playing days at the University of Iowa where she helped the Hawkeyes to 46 wins and two NCAA Tournament appearances in her four seasons.
Zappone's winning attitude has been tested at Siena, but she still believes in her team 100 percent. Despite their record, Zappone says this year's Siena team is one of the most competitive groups she has ever been around.
"Every day they are competing to get better," she said. "Since January, we have been building a foundation that will one day turn into a winning culture."
Senior captain Lindsey Mayo is one of the few players on the team who has experienced a win, and she's one of the most vocal leaders on the team.
"As seniors we only have six games left in our careers, and we hope that reminding our younger teammates of this, motivates them to want to win for us," Mayo said. "The senior class is the only class to have won a game on this team. We want the rest of the girls to know how it feels to do that, and ultimately experience that feeling on a regular basis."
On the field, Siena's been close to capturing that elusive win. Three of the team's losses this season have come by a single goal, and another two contests have been decided by two goals. Zappone now has the Saints focusing on consistency, scoring more goals, and creating more chances.
"We want to be able to show people that we truly are an improving team," Mayo said. "Everyone looks at our record and just assumes that we are not good players, but that's not true. We work hard every day and put in so much effort to improve, and it is truly showing this year. Our faith in each other is still strong, despite our losses. We have come so close to a few wins this year that we know how well we can do. Coach Zappone and (assistant) coach (Kayla) May help remind us that we are capable of anything. They know how hard we can push ourselves and they do whatever they can to motivate us to do our best."
The field hockey practices have been intense. This year's team motto is: "work harder than the rest". Despite their losses, it's obvious the team has not lost its competitive spirit.
"I tell my team that no matter who it is, work harder than them," Zappone said. "That includes teammates, peers, and other student athletes. If they see a teammate in the weight room, I want them to see that as a challenge to get better. I want them to keep pushing each other."
Zappone also knows that behind every winning program is a great support system, and she thinks the Siena community helps push her program to achieve new heights.
"So many students, athletes and coaches come to the games," Zappone said. "They see we have made a lot of improvement on the field, and they genuinely care about how we do."
Conference play begins Friday against Bryant, and the team is approaching their upcoming three-game homestand with high expectations. This is the first year of the MAAC Field Hockey League, and that presents a new opportunity.
"Our team has a lot of fight, and we never give up," Mayo said. "Although we've never had a winning record and we haven't won a game yet this season, every member of this team wants to get that win so badly and believes we will. After each loss, the fire inside of us grows bigger."
Zappone knows the hard work will eventually pay off on the scoreboard.
"We've worked so hard to get here, and I know we're close to breaking through."
Now, it really is a game of inches.
~By Jarrel Harris '14