If anyone has their head in the game, it’s first-year field hockey player Irini Stefanakos.
Stefanakos got her start in field hockey in fifth grade at St. Bernard’s in Fitchburg, MA. Her neighbor recruited her for the sixth through eighth grade field hockey team at St. Bernard’s because they were short some players, and it’s been a match made in heaven ever since.
Her well-known success on the field dates back to her freshman year of high school. Stefanakos started her freshman year on her school’s junior varsity field hockey team but was swiftly brought up to play on the varsity team. She performed what is known as a ‘hat trick’ in a semi-final game, which means she scored three goals in one game.
“All the fans would yell, ‘She’s a freshman,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I made it!’” Stefanakos said.
Stefanakos said she is most inspired by her friends and family. “As I’ve played, all of them have been there to support me through everything… I definitely play to make all my loved ones proud.” While her family supports her athletic career, they’ve taught her that as long as she is happy and healthy, that is all that matters.
Like most college students, Stefanakos said that procrastinating is hard for her to avoid. However, being part of the team has helped her in her academic endeavors. “With sports, it actually gives me less down time to procrastinate my stuff…I think it helps because I’m someone who needs structure and likes a routine.”
Stefanakos has hope that the team will be able to keep working hard and stay well connected throughout the remainder of the season. “As a team, I want us to keep playing like we have because we came a long way from the beginning. We played a lot of hard teams in the beginning, and, being such a young team, we had a lot of difficulty adjusting to it and like making those connections on the field, but now we’ve actually kind of gotten into the groove of things and I hope for it to stay that way,” Stefanakos said.
Her personal goals for the rest of the season, and the rest of her time Her personal goals for the rest of the season, and the rest of her time at Keene State, are to stay positive no matter what the outcome is and to hopefully be named an National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) All-American athlete.
Stefanakos’ teammates have only good things to say about the player. Maggie Cahoon, a thirdyear midfield player and captain, said that Stefanakos is a force to be reckoned with on the field. “Normally, [first-years] are very hesitant on the field and a little nervous, and Irini just has this calm sense on the field. She has a really strong presence, and she knows exactly what she wants to do and communicates that really well,” Cahoon said.
Chase Lambert, a third-year forward player and also a captain, said that Stefanakos is a great addition to the team and has a lot to offer. “She’s a pretty skilled player, and we’re lucky to have her on our team because we do have a young team, so it’s nice that we have some good [first-year] talent,” Lambert said.
“She’s a really strong player. She has a good field hockey IQ. She usually can read the play before it happens,” said Lambert. Both Lambert and Cahoon said the one word they would use to describe Stefanakos is “determined”. “She just really loves the game, and you can see that when we’re playing with her, she’ll push herself… she fits right into the team,” said Lambert.
“She definitely brings that offensive push we needed this year,” said Cahoon.
Stefanakos was named the Little East Conference (LEC) Rookie of the Week and Offensive Player of the Week back on October 4. She recently offered a strong offense in a LECgame against Plymouth State University along with her teammate, Ellie Hunkins. So far this season, Stefanakos has twelve goals and seven assists, and she has scored a goal in each of her last five games.
Stefanakos has something she would want to tell future student athletes: Although playing a sport is a major commitment, it’s a commitment worth pursuing. “It’s definitely a good way to have those instant connections and have people who can help you on campus…I recommend it to people if they need that structure and guidance from other people,” Stefanakos said.