Sometimes, what looks like a major disappointment turns into something much greater than one can imagine. So it is for San Benito High junior McKenzie Heckman, who turned to field hockey only after failing to make the final cut for the girls volleyball team in her freshman year.
“After not making the volleyball team, my friend Laila (Rueda) and I thought, ‘OK, let’s try field hockey,’” Heckman said. “We joined on the second day of school and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Heckman and Rueda played two games on the junior varsity team before being called up to the varsity squad. Heckman’s sophomore season was thrown for a loop because of Covid, so she opted to play soccer over field hockey last spring. However, missing the field hockey season only motivated her to train for a longer period of time in the summer in anticipation for the fall 2021 field hockey season.
The hard work has obviously paid off for her and the Haybalers (7-1-1, 3-1-0), who are in the midst of one of their best seasons in program history. Entering the week, Heckman has scored a team-high nine goals playing the forward position. She’s scored on rebounds, on shots from the perimeter and on breakaways.
Heckman credited her teammates for delivering great passes and unleashing shots on goals for putback opportunities.
“They make a lot of good crosses and for the rebounds we’re all there at the front taking shots at the goal,” she said.
Heckman said midfielder Ryen Ortiz and defender Kylie Sparks have been unbelievably good and key in the team’s success.
“Ryen is always doing the most for the team and takes over the field,” Heckman said. “Kylie is solid on defense and I’m always ready to get the ball from her because she gets it and drives it back up the field.”
Heckman said the bus rides to specific away games are one of the most enjoyable aspects of being on the team.
“We make the most of it and always have fun with each other,” she said. “It also allows me to distance myself for a time from school stress.”
Heckman enjoys the team camaraderie and said everyone on the team has contributed in some fashion or another. They spend plenty of time off the field as well.
“A lot of us get along so well that we make plans all the time to be together,” she said.
Heckman has been playing soccer for 11 years and said the skills she’s gained from the pitch translates well to field hockey.
“I love playing forward and I do have speed coming from soccer,” she said. “I can also be physical and I’m not afraid to use my body to get to the ball.”
Heckman said one of the team’s highlight wins came against Monterey High earlier in the season.
“We all felt so accomplished because of the progress we’ve made coming back from the spring season where we didn’t get to do much,” she said. “Knowing how much we’ve progressed and accomplished as a team was really heartfelt and made us feel proud.”