Sisters Bond Over Field Hockey Leave Huge Mark

Dec. 04, 2017, 10:06 a.m. (ET)

Content Courtesy of Richard Pollitt, DelmarvaNow.com

Disclaimer: USA Field Hockey does not promote or encourage the usage of protective eyewear in the sport of field hockey or at any held national events.

When the James M. Bennett field hockey team walked off the field after its loss to Chesapeake in the 3A playoffs in October, head coach Kim Fitzgerald knew it was the end of an era.

While she was losing several seniors who had made huge impacts on the program, one player in particular was leaving a mark many high school athletes only dream of making.

Laney Marsh, a midfielder and defender on the Clippers' squad, had been a two-time All-Conference First Team selection and was the reigning Bayside South Defensive Player of the Year.

Shortly after season’s end, Marsh received her third first-team honor and second consecutive Player of the Year award, after helping Bennett record six shutouts and finish with a 1.6 goals against average.

But it wasn’t the first time a player with the last name Marsh had won top conference honors in back-to-back years.

Marsh’s sister, Keegan, won the same award in 2013 and 2014, dominating for the Clippers’ squad during her four years on the team. Keegan is now a junior at Columbia University, playing field hockey for the Lions, but that hasn’t stopped Fitzgerald from remembering the presence the Marsh sisters had on the field.

“I’ve always said that part of coaching is finding those athletes who have the talent, but also have that intangible quality about themselves for selfless play,” Fitzgerald said. “Those two, they may be the harshest critic on themselves internally, but more so, the best team players I think we’ve ever had collectively.”

Keegan was part of the Bennett team that won the Bayside Championship in 2013, and, much like her sister, was a three-time first team selection, including a First Team All-State honoree her senior year.

As a freshman in 2014, Laney only played a handful of games with her older sister, being bumped up to the varsity level near the end of her first season.

Although they were rarely on the field together, Laney could already feel the pressure to live up to her sister’s reputation. Coming into her sophomore year, she knew it was time to step up her game.

“I definitely pushed myself very hard,” Laney said. “I felt there was a lot of pressure on me, but in reality, I just needed to go out and play the game the way I knew I could.”  

While Laney was improving her game, the bond between the sisters was strengthening now that they had something in common.

Admitting the two didn’t get along well throughout their childhood, Keegan could finally have conversations with her younger sister about the sport the two loved.

“We actually started getting along, and we had something that could actually relate us back together in field hockey,” Keegan said. “Our bond has definitely grown from that.”

But field hockey had always been present in the Marsh house while the two grew up.

Their father, Steve, has been dubbed "The Hockey Dad" for his love of and passion for the sport, and constant pacing and cheering whenever he attends one of his daughter’s game.

The sisters' mother, Abby, played high school field hockey at Bennett as well, and later went on to become an assistant coach for the St. Francis De Sales Catholic School throughout Keegan's and Laney’s childhood.

With field hockey constantly present in their upbringing, it wasn’t surprising the duo would eventually try their luck with a stick.

“We’re a very competitive family, and hockey is a great sport to watch just as it is to play, so I think our competitive spirit and wanting to be connected to something really drew us to it,” Keegan said. “I remember being in second or third grade and being out there with (my mother) when she was coaching and hitting around with the girls.”

Once the two got to high school at their respective times, their years of work and preparation paid off as they became a dominant and consistent threat on the Clippers’ team.

But no matter how good either became, Fitzgerald witnessed both Keegan and Laney work to improve their skills and better the overall squad.

The desire to win drove the Marsh sisters until the final whistle blew on game day. Seeing the duo push themselves to the limit amazed their head coach, making her realize early on that there was something special about both.

“It’s ultimately their own desire to elevate themselves and be the best player they can be,” Fitzgerald said. “They knew to really be good, they had to go outside just the high school aspect, and they sought the travel teams, they sought outside opportunities and brought that back to our high school.

“They were able to influence our game in ways that I couldn’t as just the high school coach.”

With both their high school playing careers officially in the books, and the remaining Marsh siblings playing on the Bennett football team, the family’s presence on the school's hockey field has come to an end.

As Keegan finishes her college years at Columbia, Laney is still deciding whether she wants to continue her athletic career, saying she is getting recruited by schools and is "seriously considering" playing at the next level.

“We’ll see,” Laney said with a smile. “I really like Washington College, so if everything goes well, I could definitely be playing there next year.”

Regardless of whether Laney plays in college, her older sister said she will always be around to offer advice or guidance should her younger sibling need it.

While the two are more than four hours away from each other during the school year, the sisters try their best to text and talk to one another, with Laney sometimes making the trip to New York to see her sister play.

Because of school and practice, Keegan doesn’t always have the chance to return to Salisbury to see Laney in action, but the older Marsh sister always ensures she knows how her sibling performed after every game.

“If I see something, I’ll tell her if I think she’s doing something wrong or if there’s something she can improve on, but I usually just make it a point to just congratulate her on what she’s done because it’s very impressive,” Keegan said.  

Through all the accolades, one thing that was extremely important to the Marsh sisters was the leadership they displayed to their younger teammates.

With both sisters now gone, the torch will be passed to someone else on the Bennett hockey team, but for the first time in years, it will be someone whose last name isn’t Marsh.

However, both are confident the example they set, paired with the talent of the current members, will be enough to keep the Clippers a threat in the Bayside Conference.

“I think I definitely embraced (the leadership role) and the other six seniors in my class did as well, because we not only led with our words but with our actions,” Laney said. “I tried to take the time to help people understand what we could do better as a team.”

Both Laney and Keegan couldn’t help but laugh when thinking about all that field hockey has brought them throughout their lives.

Despite the college opportunities, numerous awards and wins, the duo will always be thankful for the biggest thing the sport gave to them — a stronger bond as sisters.

“Whether or not we got a chance to play with each other, we knew we were there and we were always giving each other advice and playing for each other,” Keegan said. “Our on-the-field chemistry really helped our relationship grow off the field.”