HARWICH – Most athletes appreciate the sports they play, but talk to Monomoy's Aoife Daly about field hockey and you'll quickly learn that she has more than just a fondness for the game. When Daly talks about the sport she's played since childhood, there's a gleam in her eye and an enthusiasm that can't be beat, which will no doubt serve her well when she joins the team at Colby-Sawyer College in the fall.
Daly began playing field hockey as a fourth grader when she joined renowned local coach Cheryl Poore's Reach Field Hockey Camp. It wasn't long until Daly knew she'd found her sport.
“It was like an escape for me and something so fun,” Daly said following a celebratory signing of her intent to play for the Chargers. “And I met all of my best friends that I have today through the sport.”
Thanks to Daly's ongoing participation in the Reach Camp, as well as playing for the field hockey programs at Monomoy Regional High School and Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, and in a summer program, that list of close friends is long and looks to get longer once she ventures to college.
But between now and then, Daly will continue competing and honing her skills, determined to make the most of her favorite sport.
“I just love it,” she said. “As soon as I started playing, I haven't played another sport since. Just field hockey the whole way.”
Daly said there's nothing quite like being on the field during a game.
“It's like a giant rush,” she said. “I can go out and give 100 percent and just forget everything else that's going on in my life.”
Like her life, she's weathered some big changes, always with field hockey to steady her through them. In eighth grade Daly attended MRHS, but then decided to attend D-Y, spending her freshman and sophomore years there before returning to Monomoy as a junior. Playing for a variety of coaches, Daly said, helped expand her field hockey horizons and offered an opportunity for Monomoy's players to form a unique bond.
“Playing with Cheryl Poore my eighth grade year was nice,” Daly said. “Then I went to D-Y for two years. When I came back, I think when the team went through a bunch of different coaches it brought us a lot closer. It allowed the upperclassmen to take leadership and bring the team closer together so everyone knew everyone and became like a family.”
Daly credits Poore, D-Y coaches Karen Olander and Mary O'Connor, and Linda Friend, director of the New England Strikers Field Hockey Club, as motivating forces throughout her career, though there is one other that stands out.
“My mom, Denise, helped me with everything,” Daly said. “She's brought me to every single game since fourth grade. She's my hero.”
She also credits older brother Cathal, a graduate of Cape Tech, for his support.
Though Daly has committed to playing for the Colby-Sawyer Chargers, what got her into the school wasn't her field hockey talent but her academic prowess. As Monomoy guidance counselor Jen Police can attest, Daly has been a diligent worker for many years, focused on a future in nursing.
“For as long as I can recall, Aoife has always targeted nursing as a career pathway,” Police wrote in a letter of recommendation. “She worked tirelessly over the past four years to position herself to be successful in any collegiate nursing program.”
That included not only taking both honors and advanced placement courses, but also spending hours of free time with teachers in order to better understand challenging scientific concepts.
Daly credits field hockey and Coach Poore with helping her develop a strong work ethic.
“Field hockey taught me accountability and being organized,” Daly said. “Before, I would push things off until the last minute. Now I have a set time when I have to do things, certain times when I do my homework, certain times when I know I can do a project, and I get places a lot earlier. I'm always there 15 minutes ahead of time. Like Cheryl Poore says, 'If you're early you're on time, and if you're on time you're late.'”
While aware that her chosen major will come with its own demanding workload, Daly said field hockey will help her find balance, offering her respite from the grind.
“It helps me get through anything,” she said. “I have a certain time set apart in the day where I can just go and do something I love and no one can prevent it from happening. I have the opportunity to go and relieve myself of everything and just play.”
Daly offers a bit of advice to juniors fast approaching their senior year.
“Focus on yourself and not anything else when you're looking for a college,” she said. “I didn't know where I was going to go. Some days I put school over sports, and some days I thought about playing a higher division over school, but then you just have to find a happy medium and what works for you. At the end of the day you're playing a sport you love with the people you love at a place you love, and are also going to be what you want to be when you're older.”
For Daly, that means playing field hockey at Colby-Sawyer.
“I really can't wait,” she said, her smile brimming with excitement. “They're going to be like my family.”