Earlier this season in a field hockey game against Penn State, Melissa DeCesaris made sure that a Nittany Lion would never enter her space again.
“The ball was up for grabs just laying there, so we both went after the ball, and she just happened to get into my way,” junior DeCesaris said, as she described how she flattened a Nittany Lion during one of Temple’s recent games.
Getting in DeCesaris’ way is not something that any field hockey player in the nation wants to do.
Standing 6-feet tall and solid as a rock, DeCesaris is one of four siblings coming from parents who stand at 5’10” and 6’1″.
“Yeah, I’m not that big,” DeCesaris said with a laugh.
“I have a brother who is 6’3″ who plays football at Kings College, so he makes me look tiny. But I also have a sister who is 5’8″ and 5’2″, so I guess I am kind of tall. All the girls say I’m intimidating cause I’m huge, I guess.”
DeCesaris also gets a kick out of pummeling her opponents.
“When we were watching films, I made the coach play the hit against Penn State over and over, it was great,” she said.
The Owls are going to need her size when they enter the season against the Atlantic 10 Conference and DeCesaris looks forward to the challenge.
She said that the Owls “have a ton of talent,” and that the team “is just clicking.”
The Owls may be the best 5-6 team in the nation, because they have lost to teams such as no. 7 Penn State, no. 8 Iowa, and no. 10 North Carolina.
“We’ve had a really tough schedule so far, but I think that the experience from our pre-conference games is really going to help us when we play the A-10 teams,” DeCasaris said.
“We’re going to go far.”
If DeCesaris keeps playing the way she has, the Owls should have no problem going to the NCAA tournament this year.
In mid-September against no. 14 Hofstra University, DeCesaris scored the game-winning goal with 4 minutes, 22 seconds left in a grueling overtime that left her completely exhausted.
“Emily [Moyer] said I just dropped my stick and didn’t even celebrate, she said I looked like I was just going to drop right there,” DeCesaris said.
Through 11 games, DeCesaris has tallied six goals and one assist with a .703 shots-on-goal percentage.
Her goal against Virginia Commonwealth that gave Temple a 2-1 win last Sunday was DeCesaris’s fourth game-winning goal this season.
Game winning tactics are not new to DeCasaris.
Just last year around this time she scored a goal late in the game against William & Mary College to give the Owls a win.
When asked about the best aspect of her game, she said, “I guess my reach is my best weapon, since I’m tall, and I use the longest stick that is available,” she said.
“Opponents don’t really expect me to make the plays I tend to make.”
DeCesaris also finds anything other than her best to be unacceptable.
“I always go out and play 110 percent at all times, I want to help the team win, that’s all I really care about,” she said.
Even though DeCesaris sounds like a bruiser, do not be fooled by the entire tough-girl image.
When you stroll through Temple’s campus, you just might find her in a flashy dress with her trademark colored sunglasses, shiny blonde hair, and glistening smile.
Only problem is you might just have to look up a bit in order to locate her shades.
David Gunning can be reached at DGUNN11@aol.com.