Towson field hockey player Maggie Coccagna fights through pain every day to play the game she loves.
The 16-year-old excels at midfield, where her stick skills and speed set her apart from much of her competition. But to do so, she has to battle through chronic headaches that continue to plague her every day.
"She loves the game of field hockey and she loves her team, so she gives it her all and never complains, even when she doesn't feel well," Towson coach Holly West said. "The last two years she's been a more defensive player, but this year she's playing more of an offensive midfield for me because right now I need her stick work and scoring."
Last season, Coccagna scored one goal, but after switching to an offensive midfield position this year, she already has three goals and three assists through three games.
"Maggie plays for me on a club team," Bryn Mawr coach Jeanette Budzik said. "I'm certainly aware of her skills, but I didn't realize just how good she really is until we played Towson. She may be one of the best around. She's right up there."
Your position has been changed somewhat this season. Do you like it?
"I've been playing midfield since my freshman year. But it has usually been a defensive midfield. Now I'm playing an offensive midfield. I like being able to score goals. It's definitely fun, but really, I'm happy with either one.
How long have you been playing field hockey?
I started playing in recreational leagues in fifth grade, and then in seventh grade I started playing club hockey. I've been with Club Applebee [coached by Budzik] ever since.
Coach West says you're "tough as nails." What does she mean by that?
She's probably referring to the fact that I've been dealing with hospitals and doctors for chronic headaches. They're not migraines, but they hurt really bad. I've had a number of spinal taps, nerve blocks and a surgery at the beginning of this year.
Through it all, I've been playing field hockey, working out, sticking with it, though it did force me to miss the second half of the year in both my freshman and sophomore years. Doctors still aren't positive about what it is I have. The treatments have taken some of the pain away, but its still there. Every day. But I'm pushing through it.
Do you take medication for it?
No. Nothing seems to help. It's a chronic thing. We're striving for a cure.
Do you play other sports, besides field hockey?
I played lacrosse forever, since I was 5 years old. Just recently I stopped playing to concentrate on field hockey. Both are amazing, intense sports, but time my love has become field hockey.
Why is that?
I'm not even sure. I didn't even know what to tell my mom. She coaches club lacrosse. I just said now that I'm a junior, I wanted field hockey to be my main focus, and I had to lighten my load. It was a lot to handle with field hockey at school, with club and lacrosse. I had to drop something and you can't quit school.
Was your mom disappointed that you have left lacrosse behind?
Of course. She's still a little upset, but she's happy just watching me play.
Do you have other interests beyond sports?
I've signed up for [the publication] Colophon, it begins in February. I take a creative writing class and I love writing. With Colophon, you can submit your work and then it can be published by that magazine. I used to tell my mom I wanted to be a writer, to be a journalist. Now, it's just something I like to do, writing stuff down. I write poems, but nothing I want to send out.
I also sing and play guitar. My uncle played. He could pull little riffs out of nowhere, and I thought that would be cool. I was the singer with a boy band, Propaganda, a couple years ago and then I sang and played guitar with a girl band, Boy Talk, for awhile. But then school starts and it just kinda falls apart. Now I just play and sing for myself. If I have a boring day, I sit in my room and play, or I play for my parents. They like it.
Do you have goals for this year?
My goal is to get straight A's — or no more than two B's. I struggle a little in math, but it's starting to click. Math is the class I'm allowing myself to get a B in. But definitely I want good grades. And to be noticed by college coaches on the field.
You're a junior, but you are thinking about college now?
I'd love to play field hockey in college. It's my dream. I definitely want to play a high level — the University of North Carolina or Maryland would be amazing. But just playing somewhere in college would be great. I'm hoping that during my club season I'll get noticed. I say that because during the high school season the colleges are also having their season, so it's hard for coaches to get out and see young players. But club season begins in November, and that's when the colleges coaches have a chance to see us play.