On a crisp, fall afternoon at the Jerry Niehaus Field in Chelsea, the Chelsea Field Hockey team is up against the state champions, Ann Arbor Pioneer. It’s a 0-0 game late in the first half and a Pioneer player has somehow got open and is on a one on one with the Chelsea goalie. The 14-year-old freshman Chelsea goalkeeper in her lime green jersey knows how big this game is. She knows Chelsea, formerly the Washtenaw Whippets, has never beaten Pioneer let alone even scored a goal on them. She has to react with split-second timing to keep her team in the game. Without hesitation, she instantly challenges and uses her pads to stop the shooter and then deflects the ball away to her defense who then turns it up field in the other direction. She confidently returns to her position and would stop 10 shots that day, allowing only one to get past her, as she backstopped her team to the historic 2-1 victory over Pioneer.
Although only in her third year in competitive field hockey, and 2 as goalkeeper, Payton Doan has made a name for herself. Payton, or Moosk as her family calls her, was one of the youngest players on the Chelsea team that won the Division 1 Regular Season Championship and went to the State Finals. She was only one of two freshman on the team, the other being Georgie Reynolds. Being so young and on such a great team with lots of experience could cause most people to crack under the pressure. But not Payton.
“I think my position added a lot of pressure, and I’m naturally hard on myself, so I felt stressed throughout the season, and the amount tripled around playoffs,” said Doan. “But my team, my coaches, and especially my amazing defense, all helped eliminate that feeling completely so we could focus on the main goal, which was having fun playing the game we love.”
Although only a freshman on a senior-laden team, she felt like she belonged right away. ” I sound like a typical freshman, but it was an amazing feeling having upperclassmen I didn’t even know telling me great job, or “hey you’re a pretty good goalie” in the hallways,” said Doan. “My goal for the past 2 years was to make it on varsity as a freshman, so it really was a dream come true.”
Chelsea went on a tear after that Pioneer game and went on to defeat their rivals Dexter on the Dreadnaughts home turf and giving them their first defeat of the season in a thrilling 1-0 game. “I think that beating Dexter was the start of our winning streak. During pre-season, we all knew we would be successful, but we never knew how good we were as a team until we beat Dexter,” stated Doan. “And beating Pioneer in the regular season was the icing on the cake. We made history so we were all happy with what we had achieved.”
Chelsea did their part taking care of foes but needed other schools to do there’s. To win the Division Title it would take a victory from rivals Dexter over Skyline. Some of the team went to the game to see if they would win the division but Payton just couldn’t do it.
“I remember Sarah Mesko went to the Skyline/Dexter game. I didn’t want to go, I was afraid I’d jinx it, but she kept us updated the entire game and I was completely glued to my phone and jumping at every notification,” Doan said. “When Sarah texted “Congrats we are number 1!!!” I broke down crying. I can’t express how proud I was of our team at that moment, and I still am. It totally was worth all of our long practices and 6 am lifting’s.”
Chelsea made it to the Division 1 State Championship game where they lost 1-0 in a hard fought battle against defending State Champions Ann Arbor Pioneer. In that game, Doan played hard making great stops and stepping up big to keep her team within chance of a victory. But a bad break, in what Doan calls her worst moment ever, put Chelsea behind and they couldn’t get the chance they needed to score that tying goal.
“I watched the 2 on 1 develop before me in the Championship game and then having the Pioneer player slip the ball past me, was just horrible,” said Doan reflecting on that moment. “I can still remember my heart dropping. Sarah Mesko came up to me, grabbed the cage of my helmet and screamed, “it’s not over”. I knew it wasn’t, but it was so heartbreaking hearing the panic in her voice and knowing that it was in all my teammates voices at that moment too. And I have been in many of those situations at practices and other games and stopped it before, but this was much different, I was really disappointed in myself for not stopping that shot when it counted.”
“To lose that championship game was utterly depressing. To know what was at stake, and to lose the biggest title in the state was such a terrible feeling,” Doan continued. “We all did realize however that we should be proud of all we had achieved because it’s a big amount of success. To be a part of the Regular Season Championship though, it was really an honor. I was proud of myself and of my team, and it was great being a major part of spreading the sport throughout Chelsea and Michigan. At times it was extremely nerve racking, I remember sitting in school before some of the big games like Pioneer or Skyline, playoffs or not, and just that’s all I would think about. It was a healthy nervousness but sometimes it was overwhelming. But it was all worth it.”
And indeed, it was well worth it as Chelsea had 4 players receive First Team All-State honors, more than any other team. Payton was one of those selected as she led the team and league with 15 wins, 11 shutouts, and a .60 goals against average.
” I remember when (Chelsea Head Coach) Leslie (Fry) called my name at the awards banquet, and walking up there and standing next to so many of my teammates that I look up to so much, it was an honor to be among them,” Doan reflects on being chosen First Team All-State. “Coach Leslie said it’s rare for a Freshman and a goalkeeper to make that, and so I was really happy with what I had achieved. I remember first hearing about the First Team Award and just setting that as my goal for the rest of the season.”
Chelsea Field Hockey will graduate 11 seniors this year so it will be a new looking team next year. Many underclassmen gained valuable playing time and playoff experience, including Doan. But it will be a very young team. Doan feels it will be a year focused on advertising the sport, and overall just being as positive throughout the team as possible.
“I do feel that honestly though, it won’t be the same without all the seniors,” Doan states. “They all have extremely diverse personalities and I will miss all of them for different reasons. I have never been so excited going to practice than I have with this team because I always knew they’d make it fun and especially interesting. I’m proud of every one of them and excited to see them go far with their talents, I’ll just miss them immensely.”
Doan will be her same old self though, wearing her bright lime green jersey and shouting out directions to her teammates and not being afraid to get out there and challenge when she has to. And when she’s not on the field she’ll be reading, shopping, hanging out with friends, and thinking and talking about field hockey.
Payton is the daughter of Matt and Miki Doan. Her older brother Parker is a Sophomore at Chelsea High School and helps to manage the Boys Varsity Golf Team where he helped cheer the team on during their championship run this last season.
Payton Doan assesses the situation in a game(Al Wright)
Payton makes a big stop against Ann Arbor Pioneer(Al Wright)
Payton takes a minute pre-game to pose for a picture(Al Wright)
First Team All-State Goalkeeper Payton Doan makes a huge save in the State Championship game versus Pioneer(Al Wright)
Doan makes a huge save to help Chelsea defeat Pioneer(Al Wright)
Doan comes out to make a big stop under the lights in Chelsea(Al Wright)