A new era is coming to club field hockey at the Claremont Colleges. Led by captains Daniela Sechen HM ’23, Caroyln Coyne PO ’25 and Emma Podhorsky PZ ’25, the Serpents are bringing a culture update that could make this season their best ever — both on and off the field.
This conversation has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.
TSL: What are all of your backgrounds with field hockey, and what brought you to the Serpents?
Emma Podhorsky: I started playing field hockey at the beginning of high school. I was actually thinking about playing Division 3 for a school at one point but decided that wasn’t for me. So I was really happy to find out that Claremont had a club team.
Carolyn Coyne: My story is super similar. I’m from the East Coast, and it’s a big sport over there, especially within the region that I lived in. So I’ve played since middle school. I also thought about getting recruited to D3, but ultimately decided I was going to prioritize academics over athletics.
Daniela Sechen: I started playing in middle school, and then I was really considering playing D3 in college. But then I toured some schools, and I attended the classes. And I was like, ‘I don’t know, this level of engineering is not comparable to Mudd.’ So I decided to do academics instead, but I was really glad that there was a club team, because if there wasn’t, I don’t think I would have attended [Harvey Mudd].
TSL: How was last year different for the team?
DS: I think the biggest difference wasn’t due to COVID, but prior to last season, we had never been competitive. We didn’t attract a lot of players, and people were pretty flaky. We were just getting absolutely destroyed each game. But, then last season, we got a lot of interested players. We were finally a competitive part of the league, rather than just a game everybody knew they could win.
TSL: What type of culture are you hoping to grow within the team this year?
EP: We went into the season really hoping to up the intensity and formed a solid team of good players who can work cohesively. But at the same time, we know that, especially this year, we have a lot of new players. So we do a lot of bonding outside of practices, and making sure that everyone has fun is really our number one priority.
CC: It’s definitely a balance between trying to be competitive and also being a really inclusive club sport, especially with field hockey. Obviously, there’s equipment that you need, so we worked very hard to get funding so that anybody at the Claremont Colleges — regardless of if they can get equipment, or regardless of if they’ve ever played field hockey before — is welcome on to the team. We probably have over a dozen new players who have never played or touched a stick before. And it’s been really, really fun being able to integrate them into our hockey community and sharing the love for the sport.
Hockey is such an international sport. And I think sometimes that’s largely forgotten in the U.S. — how it’s held in such high regard and a lot of countries abroad. One thing that I really love about the team is that we do have a lot of players who played growing up in their home countries and are now going to school in Southern California. Yes, there’s players from the U.S., but there’s also people who played in countries abroad.
TSL: How does your previous experience affect how you lead the Serpents?
EP: We play defense, and so from that aspect we work really well off of each other. Our team is very defense heavy; we really integrate that. We both also came from pretty competitive high schools for field hockey. And so now as captains, we also coach the team. We’ve brought a lot of those drills from high school and integrated them into our practice to really up the intensity.
CC: My field hockey team in high school was also always very focused on team culture. On the back of our shirts, we embroidered F.A.M.I.L.Y. (forget about me, I love you). So coming from that field hockey community where I felt so close to my teammates in high school, I really wanted to simulate a similar vibe with the Serpents. I think my experience with what I did in high school regarding team bonding has translated into how I hope to lead the Serpents.
TSL: What would you say to someone considering becoming a Serpent?
EP: Don’t hesitate, come join!
CC: It’s a lot of fun. Also, our team is coed. I think that’s really dope. It’s a great way to meet people. As a freshman, having field hockey in the fall was really vital toward feeling like I found a community and had made friends, not just at Pomona but across the 5C’s.
DS: I’d like to really emphasize that when we say we’re open to beginners, we are. We have all the equipment. We’d love to teach you. All three of us have coaching backgrounds. So we love having new players. And we do have sticks of all heights. We have most mouth guards and shin guards and so if you’re interested, just try it.