IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Julia Doyle had played ice hockey at a high level for many years before her freshman year at North Shore Country Day School.
What the Winnetkan, now a senior, had to accept in 2014: NSCD does not compete in ice hockey.
But it does field a field hockey team.
Doyle, sans skates and pounds and pounds of cumbersome equipment, showed up for the first day of field hockey three autumns ago, looked around and knew only one of the girls.
“In no time,” the current field hockey right midfielder and former ice hockey center recalls, “I had 20 best friends, all because of field hockey.”
The 5-foot-8 Doyle is now a tri-captain and one of the best Raiders on a 14-2 squad. She scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 defeat of visiting Loyola Academy on Oct. 2 but insisted she had little to do with the tally at Skokie Playfield in Winnetka.
“That was all Margaret [Chandler, a senior tri-captain and right forward],” Doyle says. “Her pass was great, right to me. All I did was touch the ball near the goalie.
“Margaret and I … we know each other’s game so well, play well when we’re on the field together. People think we share half a brain.”
Raiders field hockey coach Alyssa Dudzik thinks — no, knows — she has a winner in Doyle, a team-first athlete who cares way more about wins than she does about goals and assists and typically impacts games with her vision and ability to distribute accurate passes through narrow openings to in-stride teammates.
“We get together as a team and give shout-outs after games,” says Dudzik, who guided NSCD to fourth place in the state tournament last year — the Raiders’ first Final Four appearance in 20 years. “I always hear Julia’s teammates say things like, ‘We love playing field hockey with Julia,’ and, ‘We love how supportive and encouraging Julia was during the game.’ Julia is the backbone of our team, and she plays with such a great attitude.
“Plus,” the coach adds, “she’s a smart player with a lot of experience, always stays cool, never gets flustered. Her teammates feed off that approach to competition.”
While digesting the loss in the third-place game at state last fall, Doyle — also a basketball player and a track and field athlete (jumps and relays) — walked off the field with mixed emotions.
Yes, it was awesome, being a part of a state semifinalist.
“But I was also thinking, ‘We want more than fourth place,’ ” Doyle recalls.
Doyle threw herself into a summer training regimen, working regularly and enthusiastically with Raiders assistant field hockey coach and strength and conditioning coach Mark Medhurst. It helped her get stronger and faster.
“Working with him also got me in the right mindset for my senior year,” Doyle says.
NSCD won 13 of its first 14 games this fall, including a 1-0 win over visiting New Trier on Sept. 8. (NT won the rematch by the same score on Oct. 6, in Northfield). The Raiders’ steadfast defenders and junior goalkeeper Abby Renaud had allowed a scant three goals in their first 14 games.
The team’s goal differential, through its 1-0 double-overtime, shootout defeat of visiting Glenbard West on Oct. 9: 53-3.
Doyle does not lead the team in goals.
“I’m not a flashy player, not a huge goal scorer,” she says.
But she is an indispensible player, in a variety of ways.
“Her energy … it’s always there in games,” Raiders sophomore center midfielder Xas Morgan says. “And Julia is such a positive teammate; she lifts all of us with her positivity.”
“It’s her fire that leads us,” adds NSCD senior Jess Hourihane, one of the state’s top players. “She’s got that drive, that ability to set a good tone for our team at the start of every game.”
At least two of Doyle’s teammates — Hourihane and Chandler — wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Doyle were to return to the North Shore after college and launch a highly successful business.
Doyle’s parents, Bill and Nancy, have backgrounds in finance. Nancy wrote a book, Manage Your Financial Life: A Thoughtful, Organized Approach for Women (November 2016).
Julia Doyle serves as a member of a couple of boards, including the Junior Board of the Auxiliary of the Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center. She is the treasurer of the organization’s executive board.
“My mom and dad are hard-working professionals,” says Doyle, who also admires her older brother, NSCD graduate Brendan, a track and field athlete (jumps) at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. “They’ve been great to me, always encouraging, always telling me, ‘Never give up,’ and, ‘Try your best.’ My dad coached me in basketball, and he never took it easy on me, and I’m glad he coached me that way.”
Notable: North Shore Country Day’s varsity field hockey team downed visiting Highland Park High School 4-0 on Oct. 5, getting goals from senior tri-captain and Ohio State University-bound Jess Hourihane (penalty stroke), University of Virginia-bound Xas Morgan (only a sophomore), senior right midfielder Julia Doyle and Paige Forester. Morgan and sophomore center back Julia Fortier each provided an assist in the Raiders’ 11th shutout of the season. Forester’s goal was unassisted. … Hourihane missed a month of action with a hamstring injury and returned to the field in a game at New Trier on Oct. 6 (a 1-0 NT victory). … Raiders field hockey coach Alyssa Dudzik, on her team’s 2017 season (14-2) thus far: “We are lucky to have an amazing group of young ladies.”