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Senior reflects on her career

Edmonds discusses

A little more than four years ago, senior back Shelly Edmonds was in her last year at Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania. There, among many other accomplishments, she led her team to two state championships her sophomore and junior years. Edmonds had athletics going for her, with her college choices including some of the top field hockey programs in the nation, including ACC rival Boston College and Big Ten powerhouse Michigan State.

Fortunately for then-second-year coach Michele Madison, Edmonds chose to take her talents to Charlottesville. Edmonds and six other freshmen "took a leap of faith without really knowing the school," Madison said, commenting about how they were eager to become the strength of a field hockey program that had struggled with previous coach Jessica Wilk.

"It was kind of funny, since when I took my official visit here, [assistant coach Alexandra Street] was giving me a tour and she didn't even know the area that well," Edmonds said. "It certainly was a leap of faith for all of us."

Edmonds' collegiate journey began with an innocuous meeting in the coach's office during her official visit to the school - her first distinct memory of the field hockey program.

The meeting was no more than the coaching staff inquiring about each player's preferred roommate for the year. Considering she had only known her new teammates for the duration of her school visit, the choice was another jump.

Some things just work out, however, and Edmonds knew whom she would room with for her first year: "Haley Carpenter," she said with little hesitation.

Little did she know that the coaches had that pairing in mind from the get go, and that now-senior captain and midfielder Carpenter unknowingly reciprocated when asked the same question.

"Shelly's very intense and determined, while Haley is more in the moment," Madison said. "It's two different personalities, but hey, they've been roommates all four years here. And so have the other seniors who roomed together in their first years here. Our team is a great collection of personalities and people."

Edmonds and her senior teammates struggled during their first season, going 11-10 and squeaking into the NCAA Tournament. Getting used to the rigors of collegiate athletics was an important adjustment, Edmonds said.

"In high school, I could easily separate field hockey from school, and it really wasn't too hard to manage; here field hockey is a commitment, a lifestyle," Edmonds said. "The lines between personal life and hockey are very much mixed, since the coaches know what you are up to, like it is in any collegiate sport. We had to grow into the system, trust each other as teammates. Having Haley and the rest of my teammates alongside me has been important to my experience here."

Once the team grew into Madison's system, success ensued. During Edmonds' sophomore season, the team advanced one round deeper in the NCAA Tournament than it did in the previous season, not falling until the Elite Eight; and in her junior season, the team tallied a record 20 wins and advanced to the Final Four.

Such improvement doesn't grow on trees, however, and Edmonds stressed the importance of the team's perseverance as the program has risen. She said not being afraid of failure has helped the team continually improve.

Edmonds serves as a model example of this, considering she has experienced plenty of rejections during her life.

For the past two summers, she had a sales job that relocated her to a different part of the country for about 7-12 weeks. Six days a week, Edmonds went door-to-door to sell educational products - "hard work," she said.

"I would meet about 40 prospective families, sit down with about 12-15 of them and explain what I was selling. On average, I would have about five customers a day. That is a lot of 'no's' to handle," she said. "So, I guess the job just really helped me become more 'present,' to brush things off that happen. It's helped with field hockey and in life, being able to continue to push on when I feel like I have nothing left, when everything seems grim."

Edmonds noted that in her summer job, many of her sales came from the final houses she visited, a clear lesson that could be applied to the field hockey turf.

"It's being able to finish and want to close," Edmonds said. "A huge part of [success] is belief and being positive. The mental side of the game is so often ignored, and I think that's going to be the thing that puts us over the edge and helps us achieve our ultimate goal as a team."

Ultimately, Edmonds recognizes that the team is in a 'win-now' mode. She said much of the success derives from the senior class' efforts and building of the program, and she hopes the rest of the team understands that.

"Field hockey [here at Virginia] helped me discover myself and grow into who I am today," Edmonds said. "And now that my career has come to a close, I have the opportunity to study abroad and grow even more. It's bittersweet."

Overall, many of the themes that characterized her career have continued on through the years.

"The current freshman face the same challenges we [seniors] faced four years ago, and new players in later years will face these same challenges when they come here," she said. "Obviously our program has progressed to the extent that the current freshmen don't know what we had to go through [losing and building the program], but the required work ethic and determination is the same. To all of our players, there is no better place to challenge yourself than here [at the University]"