RICHMOND, Va. – This summer, as an intern for an orthopedic surgeon, Stephanie DeMasi observed a multitude of surgical procedures; from ligament transplants to hip replacements. The experience only reinforced her desire to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a surgeon herself.
“I think it’s really the atmosphere of being in the [operating room], having the excitement, the responsibility,” said DeMasi, a senior defender and captain on the VCU Field Hockey team of what draws her to the environment.
It’s relatively easy to see DeMasi becoming a surgeon because it’s a logical place for the transference of her skills. By others, she’s been described as bright, consistent, responsible and precise – very, very precise.
If you polled 100 people and asked what quality they desired most in a surgeon, a steady, precise hand would have to rank near the top of the list, and DeMasi has a track record of precision.
On Oct. 4 in a game against Radford, DeMasi recorded her 25th career assist to become the program’s all-time leader, surpassing a mark held previously by Stephanie Whitlow and Kelsey Scherrer. Like most of the assists in her career, DeMasi used a well-placed insertion pass on a penalty corner to break the record.
In field hockey, when the defense commits a penalty inside the striking circle that surrounds their goal, the offensive team is given the opportunity to insert the ball directly into the circle and essentially run a set play. The ball is put into play from out of bounds by an “inserter”. It’s a job that requires a player to make a flat, precise pass into, ideally, an area no bigger than mousepad, from about 20-25 yards away. The Virginia Beach native has been doing this exceedingly well from the outset of her four-year career. Since she’s a defender, DeMasi rarely finds herself in a position to set up a scoring opportunity during regular game play. But on penalty corners, it’s her job to ignite the offense.
VCU Head Coach Laura Baker estimates the average Division I field hockey inserter hits her six-inch target about “60-70 percent” of the time. She says DeMasi is on the mark on nine out of every 10 tries.
“It takes a lot of practice,” DeMasi, who took up field hockey in the seventh grade admits. “And it’s consistency. You have to have something that can do a nice, hard, flat ball in the same exact spot every single time.”
When DeMasi’s on target, it allows the VCU offense to attack before the defense can adjust. The penalty corner is one of the few times during a field hockey game that the offensive team holds an inherent advantage over the defense. When DeMasi initiates a corner with a ball on target, the Rams become exponentially more dangerous.
“To have that, knowing that it’s going to be there makes it a lot easier for us to run our corner,” Baker says.
DeMasi, who has also scored 10 career goals for VCU, wasn’t recruited for her ability to insert the ball on a penalty corner; she was singled out because she’s an athletic defender who can cover a large chunk of the field. But early on in her career, it was obvious DeMasi had an ability few possessed. It’s not just her physical skill that allows her to put a ball exactly where it needs to be, her coach says, but a clear-headed approach that separates DeMasi.
“If she messes that up then it messes everything up,” Baker says. “So there’s a lot of pressure on her. Steph’s one of those people that handles the pressure very well. I don’t think you really very often see her flustered, especially when she’s inserting the ball. That is something key that we look at, that level-headed playing ability, mental ability.”
A team captain, DeMasi’s ability to stay cool under fire is another reason to assume she’ll make a smooth transition from the field hockey turf to the operating room. Essentially a permanent fixture on the Dean’s List, DeMasi is majoring in exercise science on a pre-med track. Following graduation in the spring, she plans on enrolling in medical school for the next four years.
“Steph’s a very driven individual,” Baker assesses. “She’s known from day one, even before she came to VCU what she’s wanted to do… which is fantastic quality to see when you’re 20, 21 years old and you know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s crazy.”
Baker believes DeMasi has a bright future ahead because she’s already knows how often she’s is on target when under pressure. Can DeMasi make it as a surgeon? Absolutely, Baker says.
“She’s got to be precise. She’s going to do it, no doubt in my mind. She’s going to be fantastic.”