Marina DiGiacomo, midfielder, Old Dominion University
One in an occasional series.
By Al Mattei
Marina DiGiacomo's career can be encased in numbers: two NCAA championships, 170 goals, 80 assists, 414 points.
Her offensive output cut a swath across any defense put in front of her for her hundred-game NCAA field hockey career.
But perhaps one single moment defined how her ability dumbfounded the American hockey scene.
It was an October game at Princeton University in 1998. Old Dominion was attacking, earned a corner, and set up DiGiacomo for the shot. The insertion pass was bobbled, then stopped dead by the stick-stopper. Meanwhile, DiGiacomo cut left. The stick-stopper pushed the ball by the oncoming Princeton corner flyer.
DiGiacomo received the ball on her backhand side, pulled further left, and sliced the ball on her backhand into the goal cage, over the logged Princeton goalkeeper, settling into the mesh netting above the 18-inch backboard.
The goal counted.
The incident caused hours of debate in officials interpretation meetings across the country. Was it a driven ball? Is the "subject to danger" clause in effect if the original corner play is blown? Is an edge-of-the-stick ball even legal? What if there was a sweeper behind the goalkeeper in that situation?
Only a player with the world-class skills of Marina DiGiacomo can make the game of field hockey a nightmare for a rules interpreter.
The Argentine import could dribble around and, if necessary, through opponents. She struck the ball with almost impossible force for such a small woman.
She created nightmares for opposing defenses looking to stop her, because a well-timed pass would find open players who could do nothing but score. Indeed, she made all of her teammates -- almost none of them having attained high-school All-America status -- play better.
The American hockey community has been blessed with DiGiacomo's greatness, since she is not presently in the national team pool. She was not sent to Sydney in 2000 to represent Argentina -- the Pan-American champions who would eventually come away with the women's silver medal.
She did show, through her thus-far unmatched scoring feats in NCAA field hockey, that America does have a way to go to get to her country's level of play. But she never demonstrated arrogance or belligerence on the field.
For all of DiGiacomo's greatness on the field, she became something of an ambassador off it. She liked talking hockey with anyone spending time with her -- teenagers, parents, journalists. She became somewhat of a draw for Old Dominion's hockey camps because of her personability and her willingness to let Americans in on the ways of Argentinean field hockey.
She did her job with her considerable talents as well as an easy smile, one which masked her determination and will that she imposed on the game of field hockey.
If you saw her play, consider yourself lucky: you may never see this kind of talent for a long time.