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California women's field hockey earns 2021 Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award

Jun 24, 2021

Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award

SAN FRANCISCO — The Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) voted to award the CALIFORNIA field hockey team with the Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award for the 2020-21 season, the Conference office announced today. Nominated by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of California, this year’s honor recognizes the program’s collective unity, courage and leadership through experiencing the challenging adversity of teammate Zoë Rogers’ passing in October 2020. 

Known for her endless support for her school and her local community, Rogers was a proactive teammate on every team she was a part of. A sophomore goalkeeper for the Golden Bears, she served as an executive board member of the Black Student-Athlete Committee (BSAC), a volunteer coach at her Pennsylvania high school, a board member of Common Bondz — a nonprofit organization focused on educating what drives racism and bias against African Americans — and so much more. 

Empowered by the leadership of Shellie Onstead, the University’s Donna Fong Director of Field Hockey, the program engaged in an approach honoring Rogers in a myriad of ways. With student-athletes, coaches and support staff apart from each other due to the pandemic, the program’s desire to come together fueled a series of defining actions that cultivated a healthy environment of mourning, healing, reflection, appreciation, celebration and love. 

Alongside Rogers’ family, the team began by co-producing and co-facilitating a virtual Celebration of Life memorial for the Cal Athletics family. The team compiled a memory book for the Rogers family in the style the program traditionally uses for graduating seniors at their final game. The Bears also engaged in mental performance and well-being sessions with Director of High Performance and Well-Being Dr. Graig Chow. Among their many activities, the Cal field hockey team started a 30-day challenge featuring a daily 91-second wall sit for Rogers, wherever the student-athletes were at the time, inspiring many other teams to follow suit. 

“It would be understandable to fall apart under the weight of such tragedy, but what I witnessed from Cal Field Hockey this past year was remarkable,” Dr. Chow said in a statement. “The team found their purpose, became a family, and was committed to growing as people, students, and athletes.” 

Inspired by Rogers’ Black identity and passionate advocacy, the program engaged in Black History Month celebration efforts in February, creating social media tributes that honored historical, modern day, and future Black leaders throughout society. 

“When George Floyd died, we all began a journey in learning together,” Onstead said in a statement. “Zoë was patient and kind with our ignorance. The team and staff started working on a pledge to create change. In her words to me, she hoped for: ‘Something that will continue long after I’m gone.’ Our team has embraced this as part of Zoë’s legacy and continued impact.” 

On the field, Rogers was always a part of the action this season — from the breaking of team huddles to the shout of “NINETY-ONE!” to a tribute patch on all Cal field hockey uniforms to a custom warm-up shirt featuring Rogers’ signature aviator glasses. To represent her life and legacy, Rogers’ No. 91 jersey was brought to all team engagements throughout the season. 

A poster, memorializing the life and legacy of Rogers, was displayed on Underhill Field in Berkeley all season. Team captain Brynn Zorilla encouraged her teammates to take part in a team exercise to honor Rogers, encouraging everyone to reflect on “why you play for Zoë,” and write it on an index card. Once completed, the team taped their cards around the memorial poster, uniquely and powerfully expressing each student-athlete’s drive to play for Rogers. 

“The way the Cal field hockey team responded to the tragic loss of goalkeeper Zoë Rogers was nothing short of remarkable,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “They shared their thoughts and feelings and remembered Zoë’s undeniable and unapologetic passion for social activism. They found ways to help one another as part of the healing process, drew inspiration in what Zoë stood for and how she played, and carried the torch for social change she left behind.” 

The Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award is annually selected by members of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and is based on good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in participation of intercollegiate athletics, as well as a demonstration of good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

ALSO NOMINATED

The COLORADO football team was nominated by the University of UTAH SAAC in recognition of a tribute to Utes’ running back Ty Jordan, who tragically passed away in December 2020. Later in the week, the University of Colorado and the University of Texas paid tribute to honor and remember Jordan with a moment of silence prior to the 2020 Valero Alamo Bowl, an act that was meaningful and impactful to all. 

STANFORD field hockey’s Frances Karstens was nominated by her peers for her relentless advocacy on behalf of Cardinal student-athletes during one of the most challenging years in the history of Stanford Athletics. After the University made the decision to discontinue 11 varsity sports at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year, Carstens worked alongside the Student-Athlete Development staff to ensure that the Stanford student-athlete perspective was heard and understood by upper management. 

OREGON beach volleyball’s Savannah Siegrist was nominated by the Ducks’ SAAC for her high-level sportsmanship to the Oregon program, opposing teams and the greater community as well. Disciplined and committed to maintaining ethical behavior and a sense of integrity towards whoever she is competing against, Siegrist has made a significant impact through her leadership and dedication. 

Previous Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award winners:
2004    Grayling Love, Arizona State
2005    Channing Frye, Arizona; Cara Chlebicki, California
2006    Eric Nygard, Washington State; Anna Key, California
2007    Mitch Canham, Oregon State; Jennifer Tangtiphaiboontana, Stanford
2008    Michael Capbarat, California; Arianna Lambie, Stanford
2009    Stenn Parton, USC; Lindsey Kelley, Arizona
2010    Ben Ashmore, Arizona State; Stanford women’s rowing team
2011    Jeff Gudaitis, Washington; Katie Matusik, Arizona
2012    Bryson Beirne, Arizona; Brittany Hart, Oregon
2013    Kylie Sharp, Washington
2014    University of Colorado Student-Athletes
2015    UCLA women’s gymnastics team
2016    Riley Sorenson, Washington State
2017    Anna Rosen, Washington State
2018    Sarah Shimomura, Arizona
2019    UCLA women’s soccer team
2020    Oregon State women's basketball team