HARWICH – When Holly Evans first moved to Cape Cod from Virginia with her family as a kid, she’d never heard of field hockey, let alone considered playing the sport. Fast forward a few years and Evans has parlayed a stellar career at Monomoy Regional High School into a spot with the Bryn Mawr College Owls.
Evans began playing the sport in middle school for Chatham when the program only had nine players. Evans admits that it took time to fully understand the game, but she soon loved it, and in eighth grade she was pulled up to varsity at a time when rules regarding eighth graders on varsity squads were still being created.
“As corny as it might sound, something was different about field hockey,” Evans said. “It is a little bit more of a niche sport. There was a really big learning curve. When you master one skill it’s a sense of a real accomplishment. Everybody around you knows how hard it is.”
Evans said that outside of the Northeast where field hockey is a regular fall sport at most high schools, many people don’t know what it is. But for those that do, there is a unique and almost immediate bond borne of playing such a seemingly rarified sport.
“When you meet someone that plays, you’re a part of a family,” Evans said. “It’s got this vibe that whoever plays it is friends now.”
Initially, Evans began playing for Helen Andrews, affectionately known as Coach Grammy. From there, Evans joined former Monomoy coach Cheryl Poore, whom Evans said instilled in her a wealth of skills.
“She put confidence in me that I wouldn’t have had had I not had her as a coach,” Evans said. “She saw something in me that I’d never even thought to look for.”
For the past two seasons, Evans has played for coach Jennifer Estes, to whom Evans is grateful for helping hone the skills she’s learned through the years by encouraging Evans to play pretty much all over the field.
When it became clear as a sophomore that Evans had a knack for the challenging sport, she signed on with the Cape Cod Field Hockey Club under the tutelage of Courtney Cappallo, a renowned local coach.
“She’s built a huge platform and allowed me to be a role model to younger players,” Evans said.
It was through the club that Bryn Mawr head coach Victor Brady found Evans, impressed with her tenacity in a game he attended in December.
“He really liked my energy on the field and on the sidelines,” Evans said. “He called me twitchy because of how I moved on the turf.”
Evans appreciated Brady’s honesty.
“He really likes my personality,” Evans said. “He said he doesn’t recruit any jerks. He’d immediately write someone off if they were going to be cocky or put others down.”
Though nervous about the distance from Bryn Mawr, located in Pennsylvania, to Cape Cod, Evans said knowing she’s already part of a team, and that she gets to continue playing a game she loves is a big help.
“Field Hockey has been one of the biggest parts of my life,” Evans said. “It gave me structure when I didn’t have any. It was something important. Going off to a new place and having one thing that’s certain is a really big deal. To know that I’m going to walk in on Day One and know that I’m going to have a support system is huge. It’s great to have that one thing that I love stick with me.”
The sport has also offered key life lessons that Evans is grateful for.
“I was a little bit of a brat in seventh grade,” Evans said. “Then I got up to eighth grade and Coach Poore was like, ‘Nope.’”
Evans said that Poore emphasized respect for yourself and others and reminded players that “There’s no I in Team.”
“It’s one of the biggest truths out there,” said Evans. “[I also learned to have] confidence in myself. I didn’t have that much before, but after people continued to see things in me and have faith in me it helped me a lot. Understanding that I was a better person and player than I saw myself as was a pretty big deal.”
It also helped that she had stellar Monomoy teammates, many of whom were also part of the CCFHC.
“With the Monomoy family, we were called a cult for a reason,” Evans joked. “We loved each other and always wanted to be around each other. In no way did I do any of this alone. I have a lot of people to credit.”
Of course, there was one teammate, one member of the field hockey family, that stood out, not only because the two often went head-to-head for the same on-field position in practices, but also because they forged a lifelong friendship.
“Ali Barrett is my best friend,” Evans said. “We competed a lot for similar spots, but no matter how competitive things got between us we were always happy for each other.”
Throughout it all have been Evans’s parents, Simon Evans and Tina Games, whom Evans said offered unwavering support.
“I am very hard on myself,” Evans said. “If I miss one shot, I’ll think about it for days. [My dad will] bring me back.”
Naturally, an eight-year career has highlights. In eighth grade, Evans was cheering on the Sharks from the varsity bench when Coach Poore said she was putting her in.
“My heart dropped completely. A lot was expected of me in that moment, but the faith in me was a huge deal to me,” Evans said.
Ultimately, she didn’t end up playing due to confusions about MIAA rules, which Poore, according to Evans, called the MIAA to clarify.
Evans also appreciated becoming a varsity starter as a freshman, battling juniors and seniors, and becoming a senior captain was also memorable, something Evans had hoped for since eighth grade.
“But by far the biggest moment was that game against Nauset when I had that stroke,” Evans said, referring to a huge penalty shot late in Monomoy’s 4-1 win in September. “I really wanted to prove to Coach Poore that everything she saw in me wasn’t lost. That her faith in me really did push me to go further, giving me that confidence as a person and a player.”
Evans said she knew she was going to make the shot, but it didn’t stop her from leaping nearly three feet off the ground when the ball went in.
“That’s one of the things I’m going to remember not just from field hockey but high school in general,” Evans said. “It was one of those validation moments. Everything I’d worked for paid off. I was doing this for something.”