Sunday, November 30, 2003

Lisa Digs Girls Day!

14 year old field hockey star Lisa Maldonado does not reserve her enthusiasm only for autumn sport.

"I love women," says Maldonado while adjusting a shin guard in the Grover Cleveland High School girls' locker room. This Decatur, IL freshman was handed a Varsity letter the first day of summer tryouts, six weeks before she would even set foot in her first high school classroom. "The way they walk, the way they laugh. Why tell a joke if there isn't a woman within earshot to laugh at it."

Maldonado first demonstrated her athletic starpower when she was a seven year old halfback in her local community Y girl's soccer league. Her former soccer coach, Nancy Walden, was stunned by her ability to weave and pivot through the field. "Give this chick a ball and tell her to cross Times Square on a sunny Saturday afternoon and she'll make it without so much as brushing a stranger's shirtcuff. She's a motherfucking ghost."

Maldonado bristles at such talk. "Ghost? This game is a collaboration. A matching and pairing of wits and physical prowess amongst some of the most beautiful and charming young women you'll ever meet. I don't just float past them. With every turn and swipe and pivot, I relish their essences. I taste their persons."

But it wouldn't be until someone gave her a stick that destiny would shine in neon lights. In middle school, the only thing keeping Maldonado from going to Interscholastic Field Hockey Nationals was her school's decision to waive consideration of their Field Hockey program for national participation. "We didn't have the money to go for Field Hockey," said former principal Terry Holmes, whose dismissal followed a local newspaper's revelation that the town's star athlete was being held back from national recognition due to lack of foresight on the part of school administrators.

"We could only pay dues for three sports programs to be considered for Nationals," Holmes was quoted in that article. "Middle school field hockey just never produced any standouts before."

Maldonado's parents moved two towns over in order for their daughter to attend Grover Cleveland, a high school with a long tradition of propelling their athletes beyond local competition. "I feel very lucky to be here at Grover Cleveland," says Maldonado. "Everyone here has been so supportive. And my teammates are a delight. When they pass the ball my way, God, it's like a first kiss every single time."

She adds, "I met a girl the other night, a goaltender for West Catholic. I scored three points on her and we went and got tacos after the game. I can't get her out of my head. Keep your fingers crossed."

Maldonado scoffs at the question of whether her boundless affection for girls who share the field with her might come between her and a win. "Please," she says. "The better I play, the more I demonstrate my respect for my opponents and teammates. If I ever held back, I wouldn't be able to look these girls in the eye. And to not be able to look into those beautiful brown, blue, green and hazel eyes day after day, I'd open up my throat before succumbing to such a fate."

She adds, "That girl I had the tacos with, her name's Lisa too. Is that awesome?"

While Grover Cleveland is coming into the end of the season with a 9 and 6 record, Maldonado has already surpassed league records for scoring. By spring, she'll know whether she'll be playing in the National tournement next fall. Though most in the know consider her a guaranteed pick.

"We'll see," Maldonado shrugs. "I just wanna keep playing. I wanna run down that field, rushing into the thicket of beautiful exposed knee and firey autumn cheekbone until it ingests me and digests me and sleeps."

Happy Lisa Digs Girls Day!