Cage of Steele

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GENEVA, N.Y. - In the regular season, Maggie Steele looked bored.

To pass time, the sophomore goalkeeper sang songs like Taylor Swift's "We are never ever getting back together" and Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" because the defense in front of her halted opponent's attacks before they had a chance to shoot.

Last weekend, on the other hand, Steele's ability as the last line of defense was tested, and her talent was displayed. Against Utica College and Middlebury College in the NCAA Div. III field hockey championships, she tallied 18 saves total - doubling her save total during the regular season.

She sits atop the Div. III standing in goals against average at 0.54 per game. While that primarily is attributed to DePauw's defense and midfield for holding possession, she was tested last Sunday against the No. 1 scoring team in the country, Middlebury.

When the team most needed her, Steele stepped up.

"I have confidence that I had all those saves, and I can get it again this weekend," Steele said.

She only started playing field hockey as freshman in high school. Since Steele was in seventh grade, Steele played as a goalkeeper in lacrosse. She started playing field hockey because it's played in the fall and lacrosse takes place in the spring.

"It's just completely different styles," Steele said. "It was the hardest transition going from field hockey to lacrosse practices. I was doing things with my feet that were not working at all."

Through her high school years, she enjoyed field hockey more and chose to focus on the sport in her junior year.

When she was considering colleges, she focused on playing field hockey only instead of lacrosse. DePauw graduated a four-year starter in goal the year before, so Steele had an opportunity to start as a freshman.

"I knew I didn't want to stop playing field hockey," she said. "I love it so much, and I couldn't see myself not playing it. ... The first time I visited DePauw, I hated it. Then when I came for my official visit I decided it was for me."

At first, Steele said it was intimidating to be the goalkeeper for a team with such a strong and dynamic offense, and a talented defense.

She started all 19 games last year, recorded 32 saves and tallied a 1.19 goals against average.

"When I did see the ball, I didn't want to make a mistake," Steele said. "I was really nervous in the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year I felt more confident in myself."

This season, she entered the season with a good amount of confidence and virtually the same defense in front of her. Seven times during the regular season, Steele didn't have to make a single save as the Tigers' midfield and defense held possession the entire game. However, Steele is still credited with an NCAC-record and Div. III-leading 15 shutouts.

"It's really cool to see, and I never thought I'd be able to achieve that," Steele said of being atop the goalkeeper statistics. "But it's not just an individual statistic, it's a team statistic. It's the whole thing doing it together."

Head coach Gina Wills said last weekend was a tough and demanding situation for her - one that she hadn't seen her entire career as the DePauw goalkeeper. Before the weekend, Steele had 17 saves in the season. She more than doubled that total with 18 in the two games.

"She stepped up huge and showed that she's a very talented goalkeeper who kept us in the game," Wills said. "She takes good angles, and she makes sure she follows the ball. She does a great job of blocking the initial shot and then clearing it away."

Added Steele: "When they start entering into the circle, I never take my eyes off the ball. When I see a girl running back post, I'm back there to be the eyes of the defense because there are things going on behind the defenders they don't know about."

Steele will have to step up again against the final three teams in the Div. III semifinals and, if DePauw downs Tufts University, the championship match.

She expects to be a jumble of nerves before the game, but is confident she can have another successful weekend in the cage.

"I try and calm down, my serves are always super crazy," Steele said. "I pray a lot before the game and get mentally prepared. The biggest thing is stay relaxed, and let all the emotions go and play my game."