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Miranda Rigg and the JMU senior class set their sights on claiming a berth to the CAA Tournament. 

Homecoming weekend marked the final time that JMU field hockey seniors stepped onto their home field in Harrisonburg.

The seniors left their home turf victorious with a 4-1 victory over Saint Francis. Their careers are set to finish this weekend. 

JMU’s senior class consists of forward Emilly Schutt, forward/midfielder Miranda Rigg, defender Megan Guzzardi, goalkeeper Kyler Zampiello, midfielder Alicia Cooperman forward/midfielder Cassie Hunter and defender Erica Royal. The seniors have bonded with each other — as well as the entire team ­— to create a family-like atmosphere that they proudly look back on.

“My time at JMU has been everything I imagined it would be like,” Hunter said. “I’ve created a bond with all my teammates, and they’ve become some of my best friends I’ve ever had. I know I now have, like, 22 people throughout my whole life who I could come back and talk to and who are always going to be here for me. And we just started a sisterhood, and that’s what I absolutely love most about it.”

That sisterhood extends beyond the turf, making the team a tight-knit group when game time comes. Some of the best times for the senior class have been off the field,  including encounters with animals invading their campgrounds in West Virginia.

“We went camping on a preseason trip and bears invaded our camp,” Royal said. “So, Coach Morgan, she went right at the bears and was blowing her whistle to get them to go away; it kind of worked. We were all in the van clutching each other for dear life, but that’s definitely one of my most memorable memories.” 

Over the past four years, the seniors have been a vital piece for JMU field hockey. Since coming to Harrisonburg in 2016, this year’s seniors have contributed to eight victories against teams ranked inside the top-25 and have earned an appearance in the CAA Tournament the last three seasons, going 38-34 in the past four years.

 During that time, they’ve learned valuable lessons that’ve helped them grow as a player and a person. The lessons included everything from having confidence in themselves and overcoming adversity on and off the field to understanding that nothing is guaranteed.

“You pick up things that you can carry into your job, career, like time management,” Hunter said. “Being on time with things, we always learn to be on time for things; being 15 minutes early is technically on time. But, I think time management — that’ll help me in my future career a lot.”     

Since entering the program four years ago, the senior class has been in matchups with powerhouses from the Big Ten and ACC, including the undefeated National Champion, the North Carolina Tar Heels. Yet, the one game that they said stands out was their game against ACC powerhouse Duke earlier this season.

“I would definitely say our most recent game against Duke,” Royal said. “In my whole four years here, I don’t think we ever played that well against a top-five team, and it was just a testament of all of our hard work. Even though we lost the game, I think last year, we lost to them like 9-1 or 9-2, something like that. We weren’t able to put any goals in, but we were definitely able to hang tough and show that we are a threat and one of those teams to be watched.”

With the Senior Day festivities finished, the season will conclude on the road as JMU plays its final two conference games against Delaware and Towson this weekend, with the intention to make it back to the CAA Tournament. 

“That’s been the goal since day one,” Schutt said. “Every game, all these top-ranked teams that we’re playing, is to prepare us for these conference games, and I just think that it’s really important just to keep going and use the energy from Senior Day to motivate us ... and it’ll be good. It’s all or nothing.”

Contact Jason Clampitt at clampijt@dukes.jmu.edu. For more field hockey coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.