Lara Martin might have seen low numbers and fewer wins than she’d want, but the Ewing High School junior did not see enthusiasm or work ethic lacking in the field hockey team.
Martin, one of the team’s three captains, said that the new girls who came out for the team gave everything they had. “It’s like I’ve never seen before,” she said.
Going into the state tournament, the Blue Devils were able to look around the field and see plentiful growth in their young team. They were seeded 11th and looking for their first win at sixth-seeded Robbinsville in the Central Jersey Group 2 bracket. The team wound up losing, 6-0, on Oct. 22 and finishing with an 0-16 record.
Martin was one of the upperclassmen for a Ewing team that midway through October was down to the bare minimum to cover all the positions on the field after several injuries. The team had 14 players on its roster, but for most games, only a dozen were available.
“We’ve struggled with that and our consistency of that,” said Ewing head coach Lauren Davis. “I think that’s been a Ewing problem that they’ve been working through for several years.”
Davis would know. The first-year coach graduated from Ewing in 2008 as the school’s Female Athlete of the Year. Coming back to her alma mater might make her feel old at times, but she’s happy to be back to try to build up a program.
“There’s definitely a lot of familiarity of at least knowing how Ewing works,” Davis said. “And then I’m trying to put my own spin on it from my other coaching experience and teaching experiences and seeing what does work and doesn’t work for our girls.”
Davis tried to blend some fun in with getting in serious skillwork for a team that typically started behind many of its opponent’s rosters.
“The big difference was the playing experience,” Davis said. “A lot of times the Ewing girls picked up a stick in seventh or eighth grade, maybe sixth grade. We unfortunately don’t have a feeder program so field hockey is a new sport for a lot of our kids, whereas the other teams have been playing for a lot longer and playing together for a lot longer. I think it’s playing time and experience in that way that make a difference.”
Martin didn’t get started until eighth grade at Fisher Middle School. She also plays lacrosse, and also plays at the offensive end in that sport. She focuses on whichever sport is in season.
“I actually had a neighbor that played field hockey,” Martin said. “I thought it was really cool and I wanted to try out. The Fisher team was kind of the same way—not as many girls and not as many wins, but we were a hard-working team. It’s the same way Ewing High School is.”
Martin started as a wing her freshman year at EHS, then sophomore she moved back and forth between midfielder and forward. She’s bolstered the front line this year.
“I can play wherever they put me,” she said. “I do enjoy center forward. It works for us because I can carry the ball up toward the goal and have a pass right on my outside.”
On top of her playing duties, Martin was in her first year as a captain alongside seniors Jada Muir and Samantha Sebasto.
“It is a lot of responsibility, putting the girls in the mood, we have to get hyped up to play well,” Martin said. “Team bonding is another thing that’s important as a captain. We have three, so we have to coordinate things for pasta parties. That brings us together a lot and helps us play better as a team.”
Martin said she is sure to make sure she carries herself well. She tried to be a good role model through this season.
“It’s about making sure our upperclassmen are respectful, excited to play and setting an example for the younger players,” Martin said. “They’ll usually follow the older girls.”
The team has plenty of challenges, but has tried to address them one-by-one through the season. They had encouraging signs with each passing week.
“I did see a lot of development,” Martin said. “It’s hard with not a lot of experience.”
Creating scoring chances was one big challenge for the Blue Devils. Their goal production wasn’t high, but they showed better skillwork that has them moving in the right direction.