Field Hockey Rivals are now Teammates

Dec. 05, 2017, 1:20 p.m. (ET)

Content courtesy of Mark Bryson, Waterloo Region Record

Photo credit, Peter Lee

At the high school level, they've been opponents.

At the university level, they'll be teammates.

Field hockey standouts Jenna Berger and Grace Davis will continue their academic and athletic careers together next year at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The two recently signed scholarship packages to play for the River Hawks at the NCAA Division 1 level.

"The coaches made me feel welcome and really showed they wanted me," said Berger of her decision. "That was really important to me."

Davis felt immediately at home.

"When I was looking for a university, I didn't want to go somewhere with cliques," she said. "Everyone was so welcoming during my visit; players on the team did everything together."

Berger and Davis, both 17, followed different paths to UMass Lowell and it's purely coincidental they ended up choosing the same school.

Davis, a forward who attends Resurrection Catholic Secondary School, was the first to make a commitment to UMass Lowell head coach Shannon Hlebichuk. She made an impression during a U.S. campus tour with the Toronto-based Goa Reds field hockey club and was eager to play for the River Hawks from the start.

Berger, a midfielder who attends St. David Catholic Secondary School, waited a little longer to make her decision. She impressed a number of university coaches during a tour with the Brampton-based A & C Field Hockey Academy, and was initially against the idea of going to UMass Lowell.

"I have a friend who already plays there, Katie Lynes (of Oakville), and I wasn't sure that I wanted to go to a school with someone I already knew," said Berger. "I initially thought it would be cool to do my own thing, but I went on my visit and really liked it."

Berger and Davis first met on the field hockey pitch in Grade 9, with Berger playing for the Celtics and Davis playing for the mighty Phoenix, who haven't lost in District 8 play since the final game of the 2009 season. St. David tied Resurrection twice last year and once this fall but has been unable to get over the hump.

The two were also teammates in 2016, competing together at the Ontario Summer Games in Mississauga and the Canadian under-16 championship in Calgary, where they won gold on the Ontario Red team that featured six local players.

"I think we grew a lot closer last year, playing for the same teams," said Davis. "I expect our friendship to continue to grow over the next four years."

Both players have high expectations for their first season at UMass Lowell, which competes in the America East Conference against the likes of the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire and University of Vermont. Four schools from California also compete in the conference as associate members, including Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley.

UMass Lowell won NCAA Division 2 national championships in 2005 and 2010 and was elevated to Division 1 in 2013, along with 13 other teams.

"I want to be an impact player so I'm really hoping I can show Shannon how I can play and what I can do on the field," said Davis.

Berger is also heading to Lowell, 40 kilometres northwest of Boston, with hopes of earning a starting job.

"She (Hlebichuk) told me she's expecting a lot from me, for me to have an impact, so I hope I can do that," she said.

With their field hockey rivalry in the past, Berger and Davis are turning their attention to a new one that starts Monday in Kitchener.

Berger, a former ringette goaltender, has earned a roster spot on the girls' ice hockey team at St. David and Davis is a key skater on Resurrection's team.

"I just decided to give it a try and I ended up making the team, so I'm stuck with it now," said Berger.

Both girls are diehard fans of the National Hockey League but neither will jump on the Boston Bruins bandwagon during their time at Lowell. Berger cheers for Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, while Davis supports the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I'm going to wear my Leafs jersey with pride down there," she said.

With the addition of Berger and Davis, the River Hawks will have four Canadians on their roster next year. This year's squad featured three players from the Netherlands and two from Belgium.

Davis will study exercise physiology at school, while Berger is undeclared but leaning to business.