“I slowly started playing more and more field hockey, and I kept on seeing my skill level improve,” Stafford stated. “I really just started liking it, and so I just kept sticking with it.”
Jump forward to 2021, and it’s simple to peer why she caught with it. As a junior ultimate yr, Stafford netted the lone purpose within the Class 6 state championship sport — the Arlington college’s first field hockey identify — and used to be The Post’s All-Met Player of the Year.
“I always joke with my teammates about this — I was never at practice,” Stafford stated. “But when I came back, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve spent all this time training; I want to see where I’m at with everyone else.’ I was excited to be back; I really liked it and just kept going to practices.”
It’s now the game through which she’ll be competing on the subsequent degree. Stafford is dedicated to enjoying field hockey on the University of Pennsylvania, the place she’ll learn about at its Wharton School of Business.
The center kid in an athletic circle of relatives, Stafford and her two sisters at all times performed other sports activities rising up. This allowed each and every of them to discover a favourite of their very own.
For her older sister, Katelyn, that game was observe and field, despite the fact that she additionally performed field hockey, together with two seasons with Emily at Yorktown and now at the membership group at Virginia Tech. Emily’s more youthful sister, Olivia, performs along her now and used to be an occasional follow spouse all over the ones days in Delaware. But Olivia has change into a aggressive football participant — even competing with adolescence nationwide groups.
“We had so much energy and we were all very competitive, so they threw us into every sport possible,” stated Emily, who nonetheless performs on Yorktown’s lacrosse group, which received a state championship within the spring.
Another form of sisterhood has additionally had an affect on Stafford.
Yorktown field hockey has a convention of “stick sisters,” the place each newcomer is paired with a returning participant. When Stafford used to be the lone freshman on varsity in 2019, senior captain Chloe Westhoff mentored her during the season, and the 2 are nonetheless shut. It helped Stafford notice how a lot she beloved this system’s tradition.
Entering her senior yr, Stafford knew she sought after to pay it ahead to an aspiring superstar. So she took below her wing the one freshman, Maddie Nimerala. Continuing the custom, Stafford will get Nimerala presents sooner than large video games and offers her phrases of encouragement at the pitch.
“Yorktown field hockey has definitely made me fall in love with the sport 10 times more because of the girls on the team,” Stafford stated.
Yorktown Coach Olivia Shipley has identified her captain since she used to be in 8th grade. While Shipley has at all times been inspired via Stafford’s ability, she marvels much more at her humility.
“In any game, you know you’re one of the best players on the field, there’s probably a ton of pressure on you,” Shipley stated. “And yet, you’re still executing with grace. Never having an attitude, throwing equipment — she’s never been disrespectful to me or any of the coaches. Someone at that level, it’s very easy to get caught up in what you’re doing or talk down to your teammates who aren’t at the same level. But she’s never frustrated with anyone.”
Not even if Yorktown appears adore it’s on its strategy to a loss, or when any person whiffs a shot. Throughout a sport, Stafford is cheering on her teammates and pushing them to stay going.
“She makes us look better on the field,” stated Alexis Williams, who performs along Stafford within the midfield and is particularly inspired via the power of Stafford’s passes. “It’s definitely something really special.”
Yorktown is 9-2 this season, and to Stafford a type of victories may were slightly sweeter than the remaining. Her cousin, Ashley Kennedy, is a captain for rival Washington-Liberty, and Stafford’s Patriots were given the easier of Kennedy’s Generals all over a 1-0 win Sept. 16.
Kennedy used to be there all over the ones formative six months in Dewey Beach when Stafford evolved a newfound love the game. Though Stafford appears again with nostalgia now, the ones days have been marked via uncertainty. Her lacrosse season were canceled and her categories can be performed on-line. So the circle of relatives headed to Dewey 3 months previous than it might have.
That spring, a bona fide field hockey participant used to be born.