Story by Rich Fisher, Correspondent
For Emily DeFalco, it comes down to the Three F’s – family, faith and field hockey.
The St. Rose senior is enjoying a breakout year in field hockey, having scored a team-high 15 goals (along with four assists) entering the Purple Roses’ Oct. 6 game at Mater Dei Prep. The St. Rose, Belmar, parishioner has been bolstered by field hockey, along with the other two F’s.
“My coaches and parents are a big part in my college search for field hockey, and I am really grateful that I have such a big support team by my side,” DeFalco said. “And we have all grown so close and have so much confidence in each other, that our team is basically a sisterhood. I believe that is the reason we are performing the way we are.
“Faith also plays a role in my play. Before every game the team and I pray, and since I am a firm believer in God, I do believe that hope and faith is guiding us through this season.”
It is a season that’s miles ahead of the previous two losing campaigns. After winning six games each in both 2015 and 2016, St. Rose surpassed that total with its 6-4 start this season. The Roses won five straight after a 1-2 start to the regular-season and 0-3 record in scrimmages.
“Having that winning streak and winning six games is probably one of the best confidence boosters ever,” DeFalco said. “About a week into the season, after our first loss to Red Bank Catholic, the other captains (Lauren Denci, Ellie Farrell) and I sat down the team and explained to them that we want to leave this school knowing that we left it all out on the field. We want our senior year to be the one to remember, and for people to remember us.
“Having this be one of the best starts this program has had in a while, we have really come around as a program. With a new head coach and assistant coach bringing a new attitude and dynamic to our game it has really benefited us for sure.”
The abilities of DeFalco have a little to do with it, as well. She wasted little time impressing first-year coach Danielle Reichardt, a former Ocean Township High School and Eastern Connecticut State standout goalie who spent three years as an Ocean assistant before earning a master’s degree last year.
Since no stats were recorded the past two seasons, Reichardt had no idea of what she was dealing with in terms of who could score. It didn’t take her long to know DeFalco was up to the task.
“She has the desire to win and since she’s our center midfielder, she does have a lot of ball time,” the coach said. “She has a really good skill at getting around players. A lot of the teams try to double up on her and she somehow finds a way out of it. She just knows where to be on the field and when to be on the field.
“She’s very good at her spacing and where the next pass should go. She’s great at putting in that extra effort to get that goal in, push those balls in and protect the goalie and be that assist to that goal. She’s got it all. There’s really nothing bad I can say about Emily.”
DeFalco entered St. Rose not even knowing what a field hockey stick looked like after playing soccer in grammar school. Unsatisfied by life on the pitch, she and a friend decided to try field hockey as freshmen and Emily immediately fell in love with the sport. Her goal went from playing college softball to college field hockey.
“To me this game changes you,” she said. “It gets inside of you and I definitely fell for it.”
DeFalco made the varsity squad as a sophomore and estimates she scored 10 goals last season. Despite no records to look back on, she’s certain this is the best start of her high school career.
There have been several position changes along the way, as Emily went from right to left midfield during her sophomore year before getting put at center-mid last season. After playing for the Surf and Sand club team over the summer, she returned as a better stick handler.
This spring, DeFalco will also be a captain in softball, which she has played on varsity for four years. In the winter, the versatile athlete has gone from basketball to swimming, and throughout the school year she serves as vice-president of her senior class.
“It’s a big responsibility,” she said. “Especially now, being a senior and having a lot of say in what goes on in the school.”
Emily will be focused on issues at a new school next year, although her decision is still in the works.
“I am looking at some colleges, and I also have some colleges looking at me (for field hockey),” she said. “I am still undecided whether or not I am going to continue my field hockey career in college, but I have a strong feeling that I will. I am still in the process of applying … but as for field hockey in college I do hope I will be able to continue my career into college.”
Even if she doesn’t, rest assured the other two F’s will still be part of her life.