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St. Louis Post-Dispatch: University City, Rosati-Kain join forces to form United Field Hockey
University City, Rosati-Kain join forces to form United Field Hockey
Rosati-Kain coach Julie Murphy and University City coach Marisa Sheppard did not engage in the usual pregame small talk when their field hockey teams prepared to face off against each other last September.
Both programs were struggling to fill up varsity and junior varsity rosters and both coaches felt the overall experience of their athletes was suffering, so they proposed a solution.
“We knew our philosophies were very similar, and we thought the culture of our programs — resilience, grittiness and a passion to play — could merge very well,” Sheppard said.
After months of planning, a new team was born.
United Field Hockey, the merger of University City, Brentwood and Rosati-Kain, will play its first game August 31 at "home" against Parkway South. All United home games will be played at University City on the same field the Lions have called home since the inception of the field hockey program in 1928.
“It seems that now is the time to do this for both of our programs. The combination allows us to thrive instead of just trying to exist,” said Murphy, who began the Rosati-Kain field hockey program 20 years ago.
Murphy and Sheppard gained permission from the Missouri State High School Activities Association, which allows up to three schools to merge in field hockey. Whitfield and Principia also are a blended field hockey team.
Although the two coaches agreed it was the right move, the announcement to their players was not met with immediate enthusiasm.
“Honestly, I was shocked when Coach (Murphy) told us. I couldn’t speak for a minute. I didn’t think this was possible,” said Rosati-Kain senior Isa Wilmsmeyer, the fourth Wilmsmeyer sister to play field hockey for the Kougars since 2019. “But when I thought it about it more, I realized there was a lot of potential, a chance to make the team stronger.”
University City/Brentwood won the Mike Winkelmann Spirit of the Game Award last season, presented to a team that displays exceptional sportsmanship, a love for the game and a respect for officials and opponents.
University City senior Lucy Rhoades was unsure how mixing in new players would affect the award-winning culture the Lions had established.
“I was really nervous. I felt we had a really strong season last year, so I was afraid that combining teams might mess things up, especially for my senior year,” Rhoades said.
Rhoades, Wilmsmeyer and University City senior Michaela Flowers were instrumental in creating team-bonding activities, including a summer scrimmage, an ice cream social and a movie night at Rhoades’ house.
“It was shocking how well we all melded from the first day. We meshed on a really nice level,” Rhoades said.
Wilmsmeyer added, “It’s been a great decision. It really has been good for the team and good for everyone.”
United consists of 31 players, 15 from University City and 16 from Rosati-Kain. There are no players from Brentwood High this season, but Sheppard anticipates middle school players slated for Brentwood High will be joining United in upcoming seasons.
The colors of United will be black, gold and purple in tribute to the uniform colors of the three schools. This season, players will wear their Rosati-Kain or University City jerseys during games with hopes that a United Field Hockey uniform will be unveiled in the future.
Both Sheppard and Murphy are thrilled with how well the players have embraced the merger, how it has already impacted their overall enjoyment of the game and what the future holds.
“Instead of surviving, now that we’ve united, we can thrive together and take it to a whole new level,” Murphy said.
Flowers added, “United. A perfect name for a perfect team.”