It’s a freezing cold and rainy night that comes to mind for senior Mariah Ginebra when she recalled her favorite field hockey memory. In the 2011 2A state playoffs, Middletown High School played Poolesville, a budding power from Montgomery County.
“[Poolesville is] not really a rivalry,” said Ginebra, a midfielder, “but we’re always out to get them.”
But Poolesville was out to get everybody except for Glenelg, the eventual state champion, and the Falcons brought the Knights’ season to an end. Yet it’s what came after that Ginebra still cherishes more than any other moment on a field hockey field.
“We were just all out there for each other after the game,” she said.
Ginebra doesn’t care much for the individual aspect of sports. It’s nice, scoring goals and all, she said, but what stands far above all else is being a teammate everybody can lean on. It’s why Ginebra and Middletown coach Virginia DuMars forged such a close bond throughout the years.
“Top priority would be to be a good person on and off the field,” DuMars said of her coaching style. “We do things with respect and sportsmanship so we represent Middletown High School and the field hockey program well.
“Second priority ... [is] hard work pays off. Do your best, leave it on the field, don’t regret your actions after the game wishing you had done more. Know that you did all you could for your team.”
In the seven years that the pair has been together, those priorities have not been an issue for Ginebra, who is playing lacrosse next year for Christopher Newport University.
“She is just a quiet force,” DuMars said.
For the majority of Ginebra’s athletic career, she was a quiet force on the lacrosse field. The temptation to play field hockey was never all that difficult to resist for her. But Ginebra, an athlete with a predictably insatiable appetite for competition, didn’t have much to do in the fall and she needed something to keep from being bored or slipping out of shape.
“I kind of just started it as a side sport,” she said. “Just for something to do.”
Like the majority of lacrosse players who pick up field hockey to stay active, she was quick in learning the game. The style of play between the two isn’t all that different, although the same cannot be said for the sticks or goals. The sports also require similar types of coordination and fitness.
So, although it surprised her at the time that she learned field hockey without much issue, it really shouldn’t have. What surprised her even more, though, was how much she enjoyed the game.
“I definitely liked field hockey a lot more than I thought I would have,” she admitted. “I definitely just started playing to stay in shape, but I really started to love it.”
A major contributor to that was DuMars. She had coached Ginebra on her youth and indoor team, the Wildcats, and the two saw eye-to-eye on just about every aspect of how sports should be played.
“She definitely pointed out a lot of things that I wanted to be a top player,” Ginebra said. “Determination, being a good teammate and being a good leader.”
Notice none of those mention anything about individual accolades. To DuMars and Ginebra, those are simply byproducts of hard work.
“She listens and incorporated what she is being taught directly and immediately into her play,” DuMars said. “She plays with maturity and pose. She does not allow herself to get flustered and this has a calming effect on her teammates in the heat of the game. She is a no nonsense kind of kid — just get out there and do what you have been taught to do.”
Her attitude in practice and in games became infectious. Ginebra coined the phrase, “Positive thoughts lead to positive actions.”
“Mariah dissipates what I call ‘Girl Drama,’” DuMars said. “When she hears conversations that may be about another student in a negative aspect, she goes right in and talks the girls through it and tells them to stop spreading rumors or refocuses the conversation to be more positive.”
The one time you might catch Ginebra drifting away from that perpetual optimism is in a brief moment following a loss — “I definitely don’t like to lose,” she said.
But she knows her responsibilities within the team and as the team’s Most Valuable Player, there’s no time for her to feel sorry for herself.
“She knows that her actions on and off the field represents the school and the program,” DuMars said. “And she strives to be proud of this.”