As the first overtime neared its conclusion in Stone Ridge’s Independent School League (ISL) Tournament final against Potomac’s Holy Child, Hallie Slidell, one of a trio of seniors who captained the Gators to the season’s penultimate game, had to exit with a potential head injury.
Before the second overtime of the Nov. 5 championship commenced, Slidell was cleared by medical staff and the senior rushed over to alert head coach Gloria Nantulya that she was ready to go.
“I knew at that moment. I was like ‘oh, this kid’s gonna win the game,” said Nantulya, who has worked with Slidell for nearly a decade at the Bethesda school.
Three minutes into the second overtime, Slidell navigated her way past multiple Holy Child defenders before scoring the winning goal.
Slidell’s backhanded shot dramatically capped arguably the most successful season in the history of Stone Ridge field hockey. The Gators went 16-2 and a combined 14-0 against ISL competition between regular season and league tournament competition.
After winning the ISL regular season title in 2021 and the league tournament in 2022, this fall marked the first time Stone Ridge captured both titles in the same season.
“To end it on that kind of note, that’s really any senior’s dream, especially in your main sport,” said Slidell, who is committed to play Division I field hockey at Davidson next fall. “To have your fans there, your family there and all your teammates surrounding you, it really means the world.”
Stone Ridge has had strong teams the past few seasons. Winning both regular and postseason championships was not an impossible feat for those squads, Nantulya said. But the mental stress of being a high school student-athlete often took its toll on players. As a result, the team’s suffered some unexpected losses that cost them additional titles.
The difference this season? “An incredible trio of captains,” said Nantulya.
Slidell, Kat Carr and Natasha Parker have played together since sixth grade. The three have different leadership styles according to their coach.
Nantulya describes Slidell as “the passion of the team,” crediting her for “giving it all until her body is falling apart.” Carr, who is committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame, is the “field general” and “heart of the team.”
Parker, who is expected to play collegiately, but has not announced her decision yet, is the “analytical one,” her coach said.
Parker was sidelined with an injury for a large portion of the season before returning before the playoffs. Instead of being absent during her injury, she acted as an extra asset to the coaching staff, encouraging her teammates at every practice and game.
The three had varying roles, despite all holding the label as captain. Together, they balanced each other in such a manner that they made the ideal leadership group.
“You never want it to be the one person who’s everything to a team. In the past that has not worked well for us,” Nantulya said. “When you have three people that bring different things, it’s pretty incredible.”
Having already won both regular season and ISL tournament glory before their senior season, the trio of captains had already achieved a successful high school career by most measurements.
However, Slidell, Carr and Parker, had a running joke of sorts. They often quipped that they had won the regular season crown as sophomores and the tournament as juniors, so for their final high school season, they were going to win both.
While their objective was ambitious, the trio’s private goal manifested into reality.
“Senior year felt like a culmination,” said Parker. “We were always working towards each new step of achieving one thing and then the next year getting the other. It felt great to finally get both, especially after we had talked about … senior year being the year we were going to get it done.”
Stone Ridge starts offering field hockey to students in sixth grade. For the past seven seasons, Slidell, Carr and Parker have played alongside each other, ending their time together in a sequence of events written for Hollywood.
Even if they are heading on different avenues, the trio, along with the entirety of the 2023 Stone Ridge team are forever bonded through friendship, bus rides screaming songs from the movie “Pitch Perfect” and an unprecedented level of success.
“Throughout the rest of the year, and probably throughout the rest of my life, I’m going to carry all these friendships,” Slidell said. “… You’ll always be able to go up to somebody and be like ‘do you remember when we won this year together? That was so amazing, it was so fun, I had such a great time with you.’”
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