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Minium: Big East Title a Salve for ODU Field Hockey Coach Andrew Griffiths, Captain Nicole Fredricks


Monarchs celebrate winning the Big East Field Hockey title

NORFOLK, Va. – Just before the Old Dominion field hockey team took the field against Liberty in the Big East championship game, head coach Andrew Griffiths asked his players to close their eyes and think back to all of the heartache, all of the adversity they've had to overcome.
Nicole Fredricks could have dwelled on so many things. In three of her previous four seasons at ODU, the Monarchs had done enough to earn NCAA Tournament bids but for whatever reason, the NCAA snubbed them.
Then there were the issues that the players shared with Griffths. During the summer, he fell in in his house and was seriously injured. He languished in the hospital for nine days with a broken neck.
Then, earlier this season, his father appeared near death. Griffiths left the team for a week to be with his father in Toronto where, against all odds, his father survived emergency gall bladder surgery.
And then there was her own personal struggle.  She had surgery in January for a torn labrum in her hip. For two months, she wore a huge hip brace and then crutches, meaning she didn't walk until March.
She didn't begin running until April and the road back to the field hockey field was filled with hundreds of hours of a sometimes painful recovery.
But she didn't think about any of that.
"I was just thinking about the scoreboard at the end of the game, and us having the ball in the corner as the clock wound down, and then getting the trophy and hugging each other," she said.
Apparently, that was a wise choice, because it happened just as she envisioned.

 ODU captain Nicole Fredricks.

ODU upset No. 6 Liberty, 3-1, to claim its first Big East title and its first NCAA bid in nine seasons. The Monarchs begin play in the NCAA Tournament Friday at noon at Maryland.
This has been a joyful week for a program that experienced so much heartache in recent years because of NCAA snubs.
"We've been through so much as a team, thinking we were going to make the tournament, and every year we were disappointed," she said.
"This year, we knew we had to win the Big East Tournament so that there would be no question as to whether we would make it."
Fredricks is a defender who scored just four goals this season, but her fourth goal was delicious – she scored in the early minutes of the fourth period against Liberty to make it a two-score game.
It was also sweet for Fredricks in part because the tournament was played at Temple, a short drive from her hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
About 20 family members and friends attended the game, and as she was being interviewed by a Big East Network reporter minutes after the game, her voice broke and tears began to stream down her face.
"My family was standing behind the reporter," she said with a smile. "It was very emotional not just to win, but to have my family there."
Griffiths said that it was out of character for his captain to show that kind of emotion.

 ODU field hockey head coach Andrew Griffiths
"Nicole is not an emotional person on the field," he said, "She hardly ever shows emotion. I've never seen her like that before.
"But think of all she's been through. For the first two months of the year, she couldn't walk. She worked her (rear end) off to get rehab and get back in shape.
"She's a great player, but her biggest contribution to this team has been her role as captain. She's kept this team together through some tough times."
Tough times? Surely that describes what Griffiths went through. He said nearly losing his father was the toughest blow of the year.
His dad suffers from Alzheimer's disease, but the life-threatening problem occurred when his gallbladder essentially exploded. At first, doctors could not figure out what was wrong.
"They couldn't see it on the scans, but he had a number of infections," Griffiths said. "When I got there, they told us his chances (of living) were 50-50.
"His recovery has been slow. He's still got a long road back."
Griffiths front-loaded his schedule with field hockey powerhouses, including games at Michigan, North Carolina and Duke. When he left, the team was 2-5. While he was gone the Monarchs defeated Temple and William & Mary to begin a winning streak that grew to 12 games with the victory over Liberty.
"I joked with some of our coaches over the phone that perhaps I shouldn't come back," he said.

Dr. Wood Selig, ODU's director of athletics, said he felt so good for Griffiths that he finally got the Monarchs back into the NCAA Tournament. ODU hadn't been back to the NCAAs since his first season as coach in 2013.
"Andrew has been through so much this season," Selig said. "Everyone at Old Dominion is so happy for him. He's one of the good guys."
Griffiths sent texts to dozens of his former players to let them know that they, too, were a part of this championship team.
"I told them that 'This one is for you, that you played a big part in our journey,'" he said. "And I heard back from them."
Griffiths said he's been overwhelmed by the text messages, phone calls and emails he's received.
"I was talking with (associate head coach) Natalie Holder and between us, we've heard from hundreds of people," he said. "I got a message from every single head coach at ODU congratulating me."
The championship victory came less than 24 hours after the football team suffered a heartbreaking, 28-24, loss to Coastal Carolina, yet he said perhaps the most heartfelt note he got came from head football coach Ricky Rahne.
"Ricky sent me a very long message," Griffiths said. "For him to do that after such a tough loss, that speaks to what a good person he is and how much he cares for the entire ODU athletic program.

"This is such a reflection of Wood Selig's leadership. When you've got people invested in the culture of an athletic program like that, it starts at the top."
And speaking of the top, Griffiths said he got a phone call from someone who's number he didn't know.
"It was a 540 area code number," he said. "I don't always answer phone calls from people I don't know.
"But I answered the call and heard someone say, 'Congrats coach.' I said, 'Thank you. By the way, who is this?' Then I heard, 'It's your president, Brian Hemphill.'
"He told me to let the girls know that they're all coming for dinner at his house, and they can eat whatever they want.
"The support we received here from everyone, win or lose, has just been amazing. Old Dominion is such a special place."
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