Sticking With It

December 05, 2017
Field hockey player Liza Slavin’s determination carried her through a serious medical diagnosis to a successful athletic career—and her first varsity goal.

After a successful freshman year both on and off the field, everything seemed to have fallen into place for field hockey player Liza Slavin ’18. Then she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“I never thought my career was over, but I definitely knew that it was going to have to take a back burner,” Slavin said. From the beginning, she faced her diagnosis with determination rather than despair, seeing it as a challenge to be overcome. “I knew that once we figured everything out I would work as hard as I possibly could to get back out there.”

Just one week after her diagnosis, Slavin and her parents had dinner with Rachel Boyle, then the head women’s field hockey coach, who assured her that she would always have a spot on the team, and that they would support her every step of the way. That support encouraged her to stay on the team during treatment, rather than take a semester off.

Whether it was frequent check-ins, friendly text messages, or cards sent to her and her parents, Slavin’s teammates went the extra mile to make sure that she was always included. It made Slavin feel “like the most important member of the team” even while she missed games to undergo treatment. The connection kept her positive. “Sure, my physical hockey career took a hit,” she said, “but never the emotional side.”

Still, it was difficult – “really not fun,” in her own words – for her to be stuck on the sidelines, instead of on the field with her teammates. When she was cleared to play in her sophomore year, it seemed as though Slavin was home free. Unfortunately, at the beginning of her junior year, she found herself once again sidelined after a diagnosis of vision loss. For a second time, she had to fight back – now harder than ever.

Slavin once again threw herself into recovery and eventually returned to the field, playing in two games her junior year and a career-high eight as a senior. This fall, she scored her first goal – the final point of a 7-1 win against McDaniel College. It was a personal victory, the final payoff of four years of determination, and Slavin couldn’t be prouder. “All I have wanted since all of this started was to play again, and I was able to do that this season,” she said. “I worked really hard to come back.”

While her final competition season at Washington College has ended, Slavin still has one more semester ahead of her before Commencement in May. Still, she knows that when she graduates, she’ll miss the athletics department the most. “The girls on my team, the coaches, Thad, Carrie, Coach Jenkins, all of them have helped me so much. They have really played a crucial part in not only my college career but who I am as a person.”

Last modified on Dec. 6th at 4:32pm by Marcia Landskroener.