You watch field hockey and see many players move the ball along the ground.
It’s how the game is most often played.
Then, you watch the players who air dribble. They juggle the ball on their sticks, running up the field balancing the ball in the process.
It’s something pretty cool to see, and something that I took on as my latest challenge.
Trying to juggle the ball on a field hockey stick. Trying to run with the ball on the stick, up against the Ayres sisters from Tioga.
Starting with Taylor, the three Ayres sisters have all had a lot of success in field hockey.
Taylor just wrapped up a college career at Mansfield University. Arielle is out of high school now, after a career as a defender for the Tioga Tigers. Youngest sister Olivia will be a junior for Tioga and is one of the Tigers key players.
It all started when Taylor was in elementary school.
“In fifth grade I started indoor and in seventh grade I switched from soccer to field hockey and I fell in love with it then and obviously it took me into my collegiate career,” Taylor said.
Soccer kept Arielle from field hockey until she was a bit older.
“I started outdoor in eighth grade, a little late, because I played soccer like Taylor did at first then switched to field hockey,” Arielle said.
After watching her sisters excel in field hockey, Olivia picked it up at an early age.
“I started in fifth grade,” she said. “I played soccer, then Taylor showed me field hockey and I liked it a lot and I played with the TC Hawks League and then I played with her and her teammates sometimes.”
As the three got into the sport, they also started to pick up the air dribble, something that they gained a reputation for using in games.
“It was actually my sophomore year,” Taylor said. “I started playing travel field hockey and my coach told me with my speed I really need to use the skill, because I could beat a lot of people rather than keep it on the ground. Sophomore year is when I started it and I used it junior and senior year.”
Being the younger sister Olivia saw Taylor use it, and picked it up right when she started in the sport.
“Around like fifth grade, I was like it’s really cool and I was like hey, I’ll try it,” Olivia said.
Olivia used the move a lot, but a new rule now makes it a bit harder.
“I try and use it as often as i can, but there’s a new rule that you can’t go next to the defender, you have to drop it in order to dribble. It’s a lot harder, you can’t be near a defender if you want to do it.
“I used it a lot in 7th and 8th grade and ninth grade to and then this year they changed the rule, but I still do it sometimes.
When Taylor was doing it the move was a bit newer and there weren’t as many restrictions.
“It’s how I scored a lot of my goals, by beating the defenders and taking the goalie one on one and I actually shot a few over the goalie’s heads that way. It’s a really good skill to have to beat defenders,” Taylor said.
“It was kind of a new thing when I started doing it. I was able to toss it over people’s heads, throw it around them, as long as I didn’t throw it into them. I think with it being a new concept to going more familiar, it’s kind of an easy way out, so they thought let’s make it harder.”
Like her sisters, Arielle works on the move, but unlike her sisters she’s a defender and didn’t really use it in games.
“I did practice it with Taylor and I started doing it my junior year, but not really on the field because I was the sweep so it wasn’t much help,” Arielle said.
While Taylor and Olivia have spent their careers trying to score goals, Arielle spent hers trying to stop them.
“For me it was different because I wasn’t a forward, I was a defender and I loved it,” she said. I always just loved playing sweep so I could stop all the goals and helping them get better by defending them and helping them with their dodges it made me a better defender.”
Arielle was never one to really be the goal scorer, but she found she could do a good job on defense.
“I wasn’t one to score goals, I loved playing defense and stopping them and getting the ball up to the forwards,” she said.
Having Arielle be good on defense helped both of her sisters.
“Going off what Arielle said, she had a really hard hit, which helped her and it helped Olivia and I too,” Taylor said. “Because we could practice at home by Arielle hitting it and us going onto the ball and that helped us out.”
Olivia kind of had the best of both worlds, one older sister who she took after as a forward, one who could help her because she was a defender.
“It benefited me because she was defense, I was offense,” Olivia said. “It benefited me, it was great.”
And, Arielle spent a lot of time working with her sisters.
“Teaching Olivia how to like dodge the defender was good for us on offense and working with her and getting her better at home was fun,” Arielle said.
For Taylor a lot of the love of the game started with watching older players.
“Just watching, I was able to get to a few games early on,” Taylor said. “I heard field hockey is a fall sport and you should try this instead of soccer and I just fell in love with it. It became my favorite sport as soon as I started it and I knew if I played a college sport field hockey would be it. And, I’m glad these two picked it up as well.”
For Taylor seeing some former Tioga stars, like Kari Walkey, helped her fall in love with the sport.
“Kari is actually the one that got me onto my travel team, because that’s who she played for and we actually got to go to one of her games at Syracuse when she played for Wake Forest so that was awesome.”
Olivia and Arielle both started loving the game after seeing their older sister do it.
“Watching her play made me want to play,” Arielle said.
“Me to,” Olivia added.
Olivia is like the mini-Taylor on the field. She wears the same number, is a forward like her sister and has red hair just like her.
“I want to be just like her,” Olivia said.
And, she wants to beat her scoring record at Tioga.
“To me, I’m just trying to beat her,” Olivia said.
There are comparisons between Taylor and Olivia, but Olivia embraces them.
“It’s not that hard,” Olivia said. “I honestly love it when people get so mad because they think I’m taylor and they are like she graduated.”
For Olivia it makes her feel older when people confuse her for her older sister.
“I feel like I’m like 19,” she said.
For Arielle she has different color hair and played defense, so she didn’t have to deal with the same comparisons to her sisters.
“No one called me Taylor like they do to Olivia still,” Arielle said.
Taylor just finished her collegiate career at Mansfield. For Arielle, after high school it was tough to give up the sport, but she knew it was the right choice for her.
“It was a little challenging, but I wanted to start out a community college so I could start in Cortland in the Spring and I wanted to focus on my academics because that’s my main concern. I am going to end up being a teacher after graduation so hopefully I can be a coach.
“I saw how much Taylor was playing field hockey and trying to balance academics and I knew I didn’t want to take that much challenge in my first year at least. I’m just glad I stuck to my academics and I do play in my free time having fun with them.”
Olivia has two years left in high school and then she wants to play sports in college, she just isn’t sure what sport yet.
“It’s on my mind,” she said. “I still don’t know what I want to do yet.”