FIELD HOCKEY TEAM STICKS IT TO CANCER
CHICO » For Chico High field hockey player Danielle Dowell, playing against rival Davis High is always an intense match, particularly when the two teams face off each October.
Each year the two teams face off in a “Stick It To Cancer” event that is traditionally held in Davis. This year for the first time in the event’s history, which extends 10 plus years, Chico High will be hosting the event. The match is scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m. Friday.
Prior to the match, Dowell changed her braces color to pink in support. Team captain Kyla Smith said at team dinners players will make posters, and in 2019 the team made matching hair ties and wore matching outfits and jerseys to represent not just a traditional home game but also to represent the cause it is playing for.
Other than cross-town rival Pleasant Valley, Smith said Davis is a strong and an intimidating team to face as the Davis players play year round together. Smith noted Davis is often one of the top teams. Smith said with the Stick It To Cancer event happening on the Panthers’ home turf it gives the team a reason to not just represent Chico High field hockey, but also a reason to represent the families of the field hockey team that might be going through treatments or different stories that everyone is feeling.
For Dowell, a junior who who has grown up watching her sisters Sela Dowell and Eden Dowell play field hockey for Chico High, and competing with the JV team her first two seasons, she has learned through her family and own experiences the rivalry between the two schools.
This year Danielle Dowell will have one more reason to play, as she is one of a couple of players on the team who’s family has first hand experience with cancer.
Danielle played in the event her freshman year on the JV team but Chico High did not play Davis her sophomore year due to the pandemic preventing matchups against teams in non-adjacent counties. This year, she said she is playing for her dad who was diagnosed with cancer. Danielle said playing for her father means a lot and is excited to see the two rival schools come together to play for one cause.
“The emotions are definitely very high, especially seeing all these families coming together,” Danielle said. “Both schools playing each other that usually butt heads and are pretty big rivals come together in agreeing on one thing and giving towards that cause. It means a lot.”
Senior goalkeeper Ruby Keesey said playing Davis is one of her hardest matchups of the year. Keesey’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she said playing at home and not having to travel is nice, but knowing she is representing her mother on the field on the Stick It To Cancer event each year makes her want to defeat Davis even more.
Smith said the intensity of Davis and the fact that the team will be thinking about it throughout the week helps. She compared it to senior night and the emotions that night will bring for her wanting to final her final home game for the Panthers. Chico High coach Kim Musselman spoke about how preparing for Friday is more mental than physical, particularly with this year’s team’s first-hand experience with cancer.
“I think it actually helps having a different component to add to the competition so they’re thinking about it all day,” Musselman said. “They want to be out there, their adrenaline is pumping, and I think that as an athlete sometimes that’s what gets you going the most.”
Danielle Dowell said her dad is hoping to be in attendance Friday and has bought all the shirts in support of the Stick It To Cancer event. She said her team has been her biggest support system, particularly with the addition of the pandemic and distance learning — the team has come together as one big family, she said.
Coming off a 4-0 loss Sept. 14 in Davis, Chico High (5-4, 5-3 Eastern Athletic League) will look to get its first victory against the Blue Devils since Sept. 11, 2017 when the Panthers won 2-1 at home.
“Even though we did take a loss to Davis, I think that is what has ben driving us in our practices and this week has been a really big week playing the two teams in the league that we’ve lost to,” the captain Smith said. “I think it creates a tone of seriousness that we’ve been waiting for at the end.”