Delran sophomore continues to build confidence in field hockey skills
By Rich Fisher | CorrespondentBobbi Warner began her field hockey career by honing her “Who, me?” expression whenever she was called for an infraction.
Warner was not doing that to try and get away with something. She really had no clue what her offense was. Of course, when it comes to field hockey, a lot of novices are that way due to the massive amounts of play stoppage.
“Oh it was so confusing,” the Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, sophomore said. “I was the newer one on the team, playing with a bunch of girls who already knew what they were doing. All the whistles! I’m like ‘What did I do now?’ My parents were the same way watching the games.”
That was at age 10. Since then, the Mount Laurel resident who attends St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, has not only figured out the rules, but also how to become a solid scorer. She burst on to the high school scene last year by collecting 10 goals and five assists as a freshman, and continued her productivity in the spring with 18 goals and three assists in lacrosse.
While new field hockey coach Alice Penza did not get to see Warner play last year, lacrosse coach Emily Burdalski is able to speak for her personae in both sports when it comes to Warner’s athletic mindset.
“She’s not a very intimidating young lady; she’s tiny and very soft-spoken and the sweetest girl in the world,” Burdalski said. “But she really kind of stepped up. She had confidence beyond her years as a freshman.
“We knew early on she would play a big role in our season. Sometimes as a freshman you get a little unsure when the ball is on your stick, but we knew she would make a good decision. Whether going to goal or making a pass, she always seemed to do the right thing and knew where to be and when to be there. Other than that, she was also a real hustler.”
When Warner showed up on the Delran campus last fall, she was not expecting to produce big offensive numbers. But she scored goals in seven different games and had points in nine contests as the Lancers went 12-7-1. She had two-goal efforts against Medford Tech, Riverside and Salem.
“I definitely surprised myself; I didn’t expect any of that,” said Warner, who went from midfield in rec to center-forward in high school. “It was just the girls were so nice and so welcoming. It made it so easy to be yourself and play like you want. This was actually my first year playing with such skilled players. In my previous seasons it was laid back but the players on Holy Cross made it so easy to be successful, and they would just help you at any time.”
And while Burdalski alluded to Warner’s confidence, the player herself admitted to having some concerns when she entered her first varsity field hockey game against Northern Burlington.
“One of the girls got hurt, and that’s when they put me in at center-forward,” Warner recalled. “I was so scared the second they put me out there. I didn’t think I was good enough. I think my nerves kind of took over. The girls were so encouraging. If I messed up, they were like, ‘Oh just keep going you’re doing perfectly fine.’ It helped my stress so much.”
Her confidence also got some help shortly after she entered the game.
“Jess Silverio carried it up and made an amazing cross,” Warner said. “I was so scared, I was running across the field, and she crossed it and I scored my first goal in my first varsity game. It was great for me but even better for [my teammates], they were just so happy for me.”
Despite losing the game, Holy Cross went on to win the Burlington County League’s Freedom Division title before losing in the first-round of the state playoffs. By then, Warner had established herself as one of South Jersey’s top freshmen.
It’s a far cry from when she started sports by playing softball and “just realized there wasn’t enough movement for me, I’m more of a running on-the-go kind of person. It was too boring for me.”
Thus, she followed her cousin, Madison Cooper, who also played for Holy Cross, into field hockey. Her days in recreation leagues weren’t all that exciting due to constant losses.
“By the end of my eighth grade year, I was like ‘I don’t want to play this,’” she said. “But my mom and my aunt told me to give it a chance in high school and I’d love it. Everybody told me it would be much more competitive in high school, and they were right. It was totally different. Freshman year I totally started loving the sport.”
Warner discovered another love as a freshman – volunteering for Special Olympics over the winter.
“A bunch of kids came in and we had a whole day dedicated to them,” she said “They would play basketball, we did little drills with them. We’d play knockout and they just love it. They say it’s their favorite day of the year, and they’re so much fun.”
While on the field of play, Warner turns to God for assistance at times.
“Faith is definitely a lot of what gets me through certain things,” said Warner. “If I’m having a bad game, I catch myself praying a little bit to just help us push through those last minutes. We usually say a little prayer before we start, a Hail Mary. We always make an attempt to pray.”