It’s not very often that someone who finds individual success in a sport at one position is willing to switch to another.
But that’s exactly what Bailey McNamara did in field hockey before last season. The Clarke forward, who totaled 17 goals and 13 assists in her first two varsity seasons, made coach Leslie Murray an offer she couldn’t refuse.
“I told Murr, ‘I’m here if you need me to play midfield,’ ” McNamara said after the Rams graduated a strong core from their midfield at the end of her sophomore year. “I’ll do what’s best for the team.”
In a sport in which most recognition goes to the players scoring and stopping goals, the midfielder is often underappreciated by the casual fan.
But many have taken notice of McNamara and fellow Nassau County midfielders Taylor Gladd of Garden City and Manhasset’s Carina Lewandowski.
Area coaches have noticed the effect that midfielders like McNamara and others have on their team and their opponents.
“She helps set her team apart,” New Hyde Park coach Kori Brocking said of McNamara. “She’s flashy, and she’s a good playmaker who sees the field really well. She’s their rock.”
Not to mention a leader who doesn’t worry about numbers or individual attention.
“I don’t really talk or think about stats,” said McNamara, a 2015 Newsday All-Long Island second teamer, who verbally has committed to UMass. “That has to be the mindset of a defender or midfielder.”
However, there are exceptions. Take Garden City’s Gladd, for instance. The senior has tallied 12 goals and 23 assists in a glorious four-year varsity career and has helped the Trojans to a 55-4 overall record.
“The midfield on any team is such an important component,” Garden City coach Diane Chapman said. “You need strong stick skills, and you have to be able to both shoot and stop the ball. Taylor has all those attributes.”
The Cornell-bound Gladd was selected as a member of the U.S. Junior Olympics team in 2014 and 2015, the latter earning a bronze medal.
“Sometimes in midfield, you go a little bit unnoticed,” said Gladd, a returning All-Long Island first-team selection. “But the whole idea of playing on both sides of the field is pretty special.”
What makes Manhasset’s Lewandowski special, according to coach Steve Sproul, is her smarts. Lewandowski is taking five advanced placement courses and has a 4.5 weighted average.
“She’s a thinker, and she takes that mind onto the field,” Sproul said. “She’s our field general. You can put her anywhere.”
But where the returning All-Long Island second-team player likes to be most is midfield, even though she is a converted defender.
“I switched back to defense for a time, but now I’m playing defensive midfield,” said Lewandowski, who is considering MIT, Princeton, Yale, and Duke, among other schools. “In fact, I like to push up on offense.”
One good position switch deserves another.