Calling the Big Ten home
PHOTO COURTESY of Ohio State University Former Northwestern Lehigh standout Alicia Anzivine handles the ball for Ohio State.
Two weeks ago, the Lehighton field hockey team was winning its fourth District 11 Class AA tournament title in five years.
During the same period of time, several Indian sticksters of the past Camille Dagorn, Alina Valenti and Stephanie Fortson were vying for a Big Ten Conference Tournament championship themselves.
Alicia Anzivine, who was a member of Northwestern Lehigh's district championships team in '03 and '04, was trying to do the same thing with her respective program at Ohio State.
It was the younger of the Lehighton trio though who celebrated a collegiate championship in her first year with the Michigan State program.
"It was a great experience," said Dagorn, in experiencing in her first Big Ten Conference Tournament since transfering from Duke University last Spring. "How many people can say they went undefeated in the tournament.
"Not only the tournament, but during the regular season as well. It's something that may not happen again."
The top-seeded Spartans, who won their first outright Big Ten regular season championship, took on Indiana in the title game. The matchup pitted Dagorn against Valenti one of her former high school teammates.
"It was pretty cool," said Dagorn, who was able to play three years of high school field hockey with both Valenti and Northwestern University's Fortson. "But all it was just a bit of friendly competition."
While all three Dagorn, Valenti and Fortson were able to garner district gold at Lehighton, Dagorn was the lone one to savor a Big Ten Conference tournament title thanks to a Spartans' 3-2 victory over Valenti's Hoosiers on Nov. 8.
It was MSU's first conference tournament title since 2003.
"We definitely worked hard for this, but I congratulate their teams as well," said Dagorn, after being asked if there were some bragging rights involved in beating her former teammates. "It's nice to see that they're doing well and I'm sure they feel the same."
Dagorn saw action on the turf of MSU Field Hockey Complex in the Spartans' 5-1 semifinal victory over Iowa prior to facing Indiana in the title game.
While Michigan State received a first-round bye, Valenti wasn't able to play her usual part on the field in the Hoosiers' attack in the tournament because of a season-ending knee injury.
After playing 57 games in her four-year career, she was forced to stand on the sidelines as the Hoosiers posted a 4-2 first round victory over Northwestern. She then watched her Hoosier teammates beat Penn State 3-1 in the semifinals and push Michigan State to the limit in the title game.
"Although it was tough to cope with (my knee injury), I knew the role I needed to play on this team and that was lead the team in a new way by staying positive and encouraging them at all times," Valenti said. "But it is always nice to see my high school teammates succeeding at this level as it is an honor to play in the Big Ten."
Although Northwestern was bounced by Indiana in the opening round of the conference tourney and was the only one of the four Big Ten teams with an area player that didn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament, Fortson enjoyed a standout season.
In the tourney loss to Indiana, Fortson got off five shots and scored one of her team's two goals.
For the season, she started 16 games, scored a career-best four goals and tied a career-best with five assists.
While Valenti watched Michigan State spoil her first trip to the conference tournament, her collegiate career still lived on as Indiana earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Anzivine (Ohio State University) and Dagorn (Michigan State) also saw their junior years continue into the NCAA Tournament.
While the Spartans knocked off Delaware in the first round, they fell victim to Virginia in the Regional Final, preventing them from advancing to this weekend's NCAA Final Four.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes and Hoosiers suffered first round losses in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the setback, Anzivine is enjoying her collegiate experience at Ohio State.
"Playing Division I Field Hockey is extremely different than what it was like playing as a (Northwestern) Tiger in high school," Anzivine said. "I definitely love the intensity and the excitement the upper collegiate level offers. The amount of competitiveness and talent in the Division I pool really helps in making you an even better player."
For Valenti and Fortson, losses in the NCAA and Big Ten Tournaments respectively, marked the end to their collegiate field hockey careers.
For Dagorn and Anzivine, the season-ending losses can be used to provide motivation for next year as they will both return for one more season with their respective programs.