Last minute save finds Quevillon a fall home

What’s a surefire recipe for field hockey success? Start the season with a roster so depleted you don’t even have a single experienced goalie. Entice another sport’s goalie to try out yours, though she has never played field hockey in her life. Throw her into a scrimmage on the first day of practice, and from there on out ask her to keep the balls out of the net. . . please. Watch as the team goes 16-4, reaches the NCAA quarterfinals, and that rookie goalie records 10 shutouts.

Alright, so there’s nothing surefire about that strategy. Unless, of course, that rookie goalie is ice hockey veteran Monelle Quevillon ’03.

Over the course of a season, she evolved from an inexperienced field hockey debutante into a defensive leader. This year, despite a rocky 3-3 start, she hopes to help lead the team to a NESCAC championship.

The Quevillon saga began in Montreal, where the soon-to-be Eph found her calling in the Canadian national pastime. A stellar ice hockey goalie while attending boarding school in the Northeast, her play drew recognition from nearby college teams. She settled on Williams, and though surgery on a dislocated shoulder slowed her down somewhat as a high school senior, she came into her first year here as starting goalie on the ice hockey team.

The next year things got a bit more complicated. The varsity field hockey team had found itself in a bit of trouble. First-year coach Alix Rorke’s squad was locked and loaded on the field, but had a vacuum in the goalkeeper position. Indeed, the only hockey goalie on campus was, well, the ice hockey goalie, Quevillon.

At the end of her rope, team captain Leanne McManama ’03, herself an ice hockey player during the winter, gave Quevillon a pleading call the summer before last season. Coach Rorke followed up during preseason, and Quevillon decided she was up to the challenge. The team wasted no time in getting her acclimated to hockey on grass; her first experience between the field hockey posts came during a live scrimmage. The transition has not, it appears, been a difficult one.

“I still play pretty much ice hockey style,” Quevillon admits.

Does that make her the Dominic Hasek of field hockey? Her prolific performances from last season suggest the case could be made. Half of the Ephs’ games were shutout wins, although the modest Quevillon is quick to credit stellar defense for much of that success.

Nevertheless, Quevillon’s goalkeeping made it hard to believe that, as a newcomer, she still hasn’t quite grasped all the little rules of the game that lifelong players recognize automatically. Her teammates, mostly veterans from high school and before, have been extremely supportive in making the transition a smooth one.

Over the course of the season, Quevillon adjusted to the game’s slower pace and larger goal size. Perhaps her greatest moment of glory came in overtime against Bates. Quevillon blocked a Bates “stroke” (a penalty shot), then watched as a teammate scored a few minutes later to seal the game. According to Quevillon, this pressure-cooker moment was “nerve-wracking, but fun.”

Unfortunately, last season’s success has been hard to replicate this fall, with a 3-3 record that includes close losses to Clark, Bowdoin, and Trinity. The offense has had trouble finishing, while the defense, including Quevillon, has been unable to keep enough balls out of the net.

It’s been particularly frustrating, because, as Quevillon said, “We’re as good as we were last year. . . if not better.” The team will have to find its groove again soon if it wants to shoot for the NESCAC championship and take down perennial powerhouses like Middlebury and Amherst.

Quevillon has the skill and character to be one of those who lead the team to a reversal of fortune.

“Not only is she a great goalie, but she’s also an awesome person,” Coach Rorke said. “She is an excellent addition to our field hockey program.”

Quevillon is a leader who inspires friendship rather than fear. Off the field, her fun-loving tendencies, French-Canadian accent and lack of experience are often the source of light-hearted jabs from teammates. Quevillon, by all accounts, certainly enjoys the camaraderie. “She’s the clown of our team,” says one teammate, in its most complimentary meaning.

On the field, however, Quevillon is all intensity. “I’ve always taken everything I do seriously,” she said, and that includes both field and ice hockey. This winter will mark her third season as starting goalie on the women’s ice hockey team. Ice hockey may be the sport closest to her heart, from her childhood spent as a diehard Montreal Canadians’ fan, to her present day exploits on the ice. Field hockey, however, has found a place of its own inside her. “Ice hockey is my main sport,” she told me, “but I still love field hockey.”

Now that love faces its severest test, as the team will have to call upon all of its resources to climb back into contention. It’s an unfamiliar situation, but then again, Quevillon has a some experience in that department.