Piece written by Erin Dunne, UD Athletics Media Relations Student Intern

For those who excel in the sport they play, high school is not only a time to experience the inevitable awkward years of being a teenager, heavy course loads, or immerse oneself in numerous clubs. In addition to all of these things, it is a time to prepare oneself in athletics for college recruitment, to sharpen your playing skills and hopefully get recognized by different universities, if you choose to continue playing a sport at the collegiate level.

Cape Henlopen High School’s field hockey team certainly had no issues getting its athletes recognized, as three of the young women have continued on to make their mark at the University of Delaware.

Noteworthy even at the high school level as Vikings, Rebecca Pepper, Jacki Coveleski, and Maggie Delp have continued their successful career from Lewes, Del. to Newark, Del. to play together again, as Blue Hens.  Their legacy clearly carries on as these three long-time teammates take the field at Delaware and hope to bring a second consecutive CAA title back to Newark this weekend.

First State natives Rebecca Pepper, Maggie Delp, Morgan Hudson (Wilmington, Del./Concord) and Jacki Coveleski

Within the state of Delaware, Cape Henlopen field hockey makes a huge impact based on its skilled players and the many successful seasons it has under its belt.

Former head coach Nicole Hughes, a collegiate player at Michigan State University herself, coached Pepper and Coveleski for all four years that they played at Cape, in addition to coaching Jacki throughout her middle school years, before handing off the reigns to Kate Windett, a former Blue Hen herself.

Hughes also spent a year with Delp, acting as head coach as the current UD freshman experienced her freshman year of high school hockey.

The Cape Henlopen-UD connection does not stop there as Hughes spent her years at MSU under the guidance of then-assistant coach, Rolf van de Kerkhof, who is currently in his fourth season as the head coach of the Blue Hens field hockey program.

Hughes expresses that, “It was great to see the girls go to a coach like Rolf, since I know him,” which further highlights the strong roots of this field hockey powerhouse.

In the time Pepper and Coveleski spent on the Cape Henlopen team, the Vikings captured the conference championship in each season from 2008 to 2012 while posting a winning percentage of over .950.

The culmination of the team’s success revealed itself during Coveleski’s senior year and Delp’s freshman year on the team in 2011, when the Vikings went undefeated for the entire season and captured the Delaware state championship.

Not only is the team successful on the playing front, Hughes shares that the team held a special bond, like that of many sports teams.

“The girls have been on the same team for so long, they share the same mentality,” stated Hughes.  “It is pretty obvious to see they have a certain amount of love and respect for one another.” 

The small town of Lewes, Del. clearly produces some big talent on the field, as three of the players carry the intensity and drive of their high school careers to their college careers just 83 miles north. Their success at the high school level certainly translates well into preparing them for a higher intensity in college and a faster-paced game. 

Hughes discusses the growth she watched the girls undergo throughout her time with them and the talents they hold, which mirror many of the sentiments expressed by the girls about one another and by Van de Kerkhof.

“Each player plays to their strengths,” remarked Van de Kerkhof.  “The girls know what it takes to be a winner.” 

As a player, Pepper (at left) stands out for her speed and quick wit to both of her coaches, past and present, as well as her fellow players.

Hughes says Pepper was a strong defender in her time at Cape, sharing that, “If the ball got past her, it was very rare.”

Pepper, a senior, possesses a field awareness that allows her to travel well with the ball and present herself as a “go-to-girl,” according to Hughes.

Now, she has changed positions in collegiate play as she transitioned from a defender to a forward.

Pepper remarks on the transition saying, “Coach told me, ‘okay go in as forward,’” to which she replied, “okay, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll try it!”

Clearly the transition has been a successful one, as her speed on the field and ability to build the team and make herself available captures the attention of both her head coach and fellow players.

Coveleski remarks on the skills of her teammate, stating, “Rebecca holds the finesse and is fast and composed on the field. She offered to help me out with anything I needed when I came to school,” which demonstrates the sportsmanship and skill this player holds.

A decorated athlete and scholar who won the Henlopen North Conference Championship in 2008 and 2009 as well being a four-year letterwinner at Cape and three-time letterwinner at Delaware, Pepper sets an example as the oldest of her fellow Vikings-turned-Blue Hens through leadership and talent.

Coveleski, who attended the U.S Junior Olympics as a high school freshman, led Cape to a perfect 18-0 record as a senior in high school, and as two-year letter winner at Delaware, is what Hughes regards as a “bulldog on the field. As graceful as a ballerina, but has intense grit.”

A skilled player already, Coveleski (at right) has only improved with the transition to a collegiate level. In her time at college, her current coach Van de Kerkhof remarks, “She has matured as a player. She has focus and committed to a new style of focus on the field.”

In addition to her maturation as a player, the junior talks about her off-the field experiences, stating, “I am a very competitive person and sports have helped me to mature.”

An extremely strong player on the field, Coveleski creates a strong presence for her teammates off the field as well. Coveleski comments, “We are encouraged to push on another. If someone is weaker in a cardio setting, but strong in another setting, we help each other,” which demonstrates the team values instilled in not only this athlete, but also all of the Cape Henlopen girls.

In fact, Delp shares that Coveleski demonstrated her team values this summer, when Delp reached out about being nervous over a running test. Coveleski assisted her three times a week to help with training prior to coming to school, and Delp passed her running test. As players and friends, the women on this team clearly care for one another at great lengths, a bond that has been apparent at the players’ times in Lewes and Newark.

A standout athlete in high school, capturing first team All-Conference and a second team All-State honors while leading the Vikings to a four-year record of 72-2-1, Delp certainly represents the continual strength of the Cape field hockey program.

Entering her first year at the collegiate level this fall, Delp has proved to have made a smooth transition from one level to the next. She expresses that the transition is “demanding, but teammates have ways of helping you to get through things.”

Coupled with the experience she had in high school and the guidance of her fellow Cape alumni, she is set to make an impact as she grows as a Blue Hen.

According to Van de Kerkhof, Delp “has much opportunity to grow and is developing as a young Blue Hen.”

Hughes comments on the budding Hens’ career, stating, “Maggie (at left) has impeccable stick work, it is refined and she worked really hard on it. In addition, the fact that she’s getting playing time as a freshman is remarkable, but not surprising.”

In addition to their talents on the field, Hughes notes that, “All three girls work really hard academically. They put education first, then athletics.”

Van de Kerkhof echoed those sentiments, saying, “All three want to grow. They use sports as an educational tool to grow as a person.”

“Being a student-athlete makes me realize how much you need to stay on top of things; playing a sport helps keep me in line with team-required study hours and a goal GPA,” affirmed Delp.

The success of their high school careers prepared them to play like winners at the University of Delaware on the field and in the classroom, where all three girls are valued players and friends.

"Everyone contributes to our success, and contribution is a requirement to succeed,” Van de Kerkhof says about his team as a whole.

The spirit of success is apparent in not only these three girls, but also the entire team, as they make their way fiercely through this year’s season with the goals of capturing another CAA championship and returning to the NCAA Tournament.