Emily Lopez has come a long way since she started playing field hockey in her freshman year at Live Oak High. Now a senior and one of the Acorns’ captains, Lopez has worked hard to improve and become one of the team’s best all-around players.
“When I first started playing and got the ball, I freaked out and would pass it any random direction,” she said. “But now I feel a lot more aware and calm on the field.”
That’s a byproduct of Lopez loving the sport and continually striving to develop her skills. The center midfielder has played a key role in Live Oak’s resurgence. After dropping five straight non-league games to open the season, the Acorns rebounded with wins over Del Mar and Sobrato to start Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa Division action.
Better yet, the team—which had been limited to just one goal through the first five matches—scored multiple times in each of its victories. Acorns coach Sarah Porras and Lopez said favorable results could characterize the rest of the season since they’re playing teams more along their level.
“I think we can definitely win all the games left in our league (schedule),” Lopez said. “We lost six players from our team last year, so we were still figuring things out and getting used to playing with each other. We lost the first couple of games and it probably put the team in a sour mood. And we probably felt a little cursed because we couldn’t score any goals.”
However, the team’s spirits received a lift after scoring multiple times against Del Mar and Sobrato.
“We got super hyped,” Lopez said. “That boosted our morale a bit.”
Lopez said Kaitlyn Silva has scored most of the team’s goals and has been a huge encouragement.
“This is her first year of playing field hockey and she’s improved so much from knowing nothing about the rules and holding a stick to scoring most of our goals,” Lopez said. “I’m so proud of her.”
Lopez said she and fellow center midfielder Aida Martins have formed a strong chemistry and both have made passes that have led to scores or shots on goal. Lopez mentioned teammates such as Bella Espinoza and Izzy Jeffery have given the team a huge boost as well.
“They’re such great defensive players and super aggressive,” she said.
Lopez counted her performance against Sobrato as the individual highlight of her season.
“I did not score any goals, but I assisted on some and I felt like I was able to juke a lot of their players,” she said. “One memory I have is dodging around four different girls and making a really good pass to Aida.”
Lopez said she loves the technical aspect of field hockey. Physical play is limited so being refined in the fundamentals is paramount.
“Some sports you have to be really physically strong to succeed in them, but in field hockey if you work on technique you can pass well and juke well,” she said.
For example, hitting the ball is one of the sport’s fundamentals but hard to master.
“It’s like swinging a golf club and you would assume you would need super super strong arms to do it which I don’t have because I can only do one pushup,” Lopez said.
However, starting in her freshman year Lopez set up an area in her garage where she practiced her hitting and has since developed a nice swing. Those who have known Lopez for a long time might find it hard to believe she’s become so passionate about field hockey.
“I wasn’t the sports kid growing up; I was the super artsy kid,” she said. “My parents would always ask me if I wanted to play sports and I would always say no. I would draw a lot when I was younger and I still do. But I love field hockey so much and I’m hoping maybe I can do it in college. I think that would be really cool.”
To get a glimpse into Lopez’s positive and determined outlook, she plans on playing on the soccer team this season after competing in the sport for the first time ever last year as the sweeper on the junior varsity squad.
“It was a very difficult experience, and playing soccer made me realize how much I love field hockey,” she said. “I did a lot of running because soccer games are so long and since we would lose the ball a lot, I would have to chase the other team’s forwards and kick the ball away so I was always getting super tired. But I’m still going to play soccer this year because it’s good exercise and I just want to push myself.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]