By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Senior Paige Care finished her field hockey career tantalizingly close to the magical 100-goal mark. Most players would be pretty upset about finishing with 99, but stats never mattered much to Care. She just wanted to play her best every game and help the team win.
“I didn’t really think about it too much. I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself, and I didn’t think anyone else put any pressure on me,” said Care, who led the Cape-Atlantic League with 30 goals this season. “At first it was a little discouraging, but there’s nothing I can do about it, so I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t really worry about (my own stats) that much. Our team had a great season, and not reaching 100 goals didn’t change the fact that I really enjoyed my senior year.”
Glory Days Magazine’s field hockey Player of the Year has always been kind of shy about talking to reporters, but when you’re scoring three or four goals a game, the attention is going to come. But, no matter how much came, she would quickly deflect it to teammates. That’s what a leader does, and Care and the other Mainland seniors showed a lot of leadership to pull this team together after the Mustangs were forced to forfeit about eight games last year because of an NJSIAA transfer rule violation.
“We didn’t let anything from last year affect us at all. We had a clean slate and we were pretty focused on what we wanted to accomplish this year,” Care said. “We had a really good season. Going in, I had expectations that our team would be really good this year. We had a lot of really good players, and I think we met a lot of the expectations this season.”
Early on in the season, Care scored a pair of goals as Mainland beat rival Ocean City, 2-1, for the first time in her career. She also led the Mustangs to key wins over teams such as Egg Harbor Township, Rancocas Valley, and St. Joseph, and a playoff win over Winslow before a loss to Ocean City in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. She also finished her career as Mainland’s leading scorer in school history.
“It’s super cool. I don’t really know how to describe it,” Care said of that accomplishment. “It’s a nice feeling. I had no idea my career would be anything like it was.”
Years from now, Care said she won’t remember the goals and wins as much as the time spent with teammates and coaches.
“I think I’ll remember a lot of the memories we made and the inside jokes I had with my teammates. I think it will be more about the bond with the girls years from now. We’re super close, on and off the field, and that’s been a big part of our success,” she said. “I think for me and other seniors and captains, it was a big focus to get everyone together for pasta parties, dinners, sleepovers, things like that.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays