Field hockey scores state championship win

New Trier wins the elusive title after state tournament cancelled last year



New Trier’s field hockey team celebrating their championship trophy after defeating Oak Park River Forest 4-0 on Oct. 30.

New Trier’s girls’ field hockey team won the 2021 Illinois Field Hockey State Championship 4-0 over Oak Park and River Forest (OPRF) on Oct. 30. 

Winning the championship was one of the best feelings in the world, but it came parallel with the realization that it was my last time playing for New Trier field hockey.

— Inka Alberts

“The championship meant so much to me as the [state] tournament was cancelled last year, so it felt like I was playing not only for this year’s team but also for last year’s team,” said senior Inka Alberts.

Before the big win, head coach Stephanie Nykaza described the season preceding the championship as “up and down.” The team’s season record was 22-6-1.

“When we went out east to a national tournament, we had a hard time,” said Nykaza. “[The players] realized that things weren’t going to be as easy as they thought.”

Senior Sofie Hekster acknowledges that the team had “iffy” moments at times.

“One of the best things we did was work around it and resolve it,” she said.

Preceding the state championship, the team had suffered a loss to OPRF.

“It wasn’t one of our best games, so I was expecting a challenge on the field,” Hekster said.

However, Junior Honor Roberts had an outstanding season, winning the Player of the Year award in New Trier’s league. 

“She’s the second player out of the 33 years I’ve been coaching that has been named Player of the Year,” said Nykaza.

Seeded third going into the state tournament, the team initially doubted they could win the title.

“[Being seeded third] planted a bit of doubt in some of us,” said Hekster. “However, throughout the entire tournament, we played like the number 1 seeded team.”

Nykaza said she was “thrilled” when the team exceeded expectations.

“We came in as an underdog, which might have given us fuel to win,” she said.

At the tournament, the team went undefeated. Alberts said the team built up momentum as the tournament continued.

“As the final game arrived, I put all my energy and hope into winning,” she said.

“We really came together in the moments when we needed to,” said junior Honor Roberts.

Nykaza was impressed with the team’s dominance in the final championship game. 

“We scored the first two goals in the first quarter,” she said. “So [OPRF] were silenced.”

“We were focused, determined, confident,” said Hekster. “Once the game started, our teammates on the sideline and fans in the stands were cheering us on the entire way. All players on and off the field were so determined, and we were playing extremely well.”

Alberts said the tournament and the championship game was “exhilarating” up to its final moments.

“When the team on the sideline started to countdown the last ten seconds, I could feel my heart start to pound, and when the time finally expired I ran to our goalie and fell into the team’s huge pile of people hugging,” she said.

Hekster noted that the team’s past excellence on the field was motivation for them to take the title home.

“Teams in the past with the program have been extremely strong, so there was pressure to maintain that,” she said. “Being able to prove to everyone that we deserved our title, and that we played hard made me feel so happy.”

This team will undoubtedly leave behind a legacy of their own.

“Winning the championship was one of the best feelings in the world, but it came parallel with the realization that it was my last time playing for New Trier field hockey,” said Alberts.

The championship will be Roberts’ second state title after a 2019 win with New Trier.

“It means a lot to me and everyone on the team because it means that all of our hard work has paid off,” she said.

Despite a rocky start to the season, the team persevered to pull out a final, dominating victory.

“We were full gear. And we played a lot better than [OPRF] did,” said Nykaza. “So it was a great day; strong performance.”