By Gary Hawkins
Brittany Ford enjoyed a successful athletic career at Cony High School, lettering in field hockey, basketball and track and field, but when it came time to choose a college, academics came first.
After looking at a number of Maine schools, Ford decided to attend Stonehill College because of its business program. Four years later, Ford is poised to earn a degree in marketing next spring and is entering her fourth year on the field hockey team. Six games into the season, Ford already has four goals and two assists for 10 points, second best on the team.
"I wasn't necessarily looking to play sports," Ford said. "Thankfully the athletic part of it worked out."
Coach Shelly Morris was just joining the program herself and after Ford contacted her about playing for the team, Morris invited her to a practice and liked what she saw. Ford led the field hockey team at Cony in scoring her last three years and was a first team Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference all-star as a junior and a senior. Despite those credentials, she was apprehensive playing for a Division II program.
"I wasn't really sure what the competition was going to be like," she said. "It's definitely a challenging level."
Ford credits former Cony coach Krista Chase for encouraging her to play in college.
"She was a big support for me in high school," she said. "She was always pushing me to get better."
Ford played a few games her freshman year and has appeared in every game since. Goals, until this season, though, were hard to come by. Morris said sometimes she was "her own worst enemy," often putting too much pressure on herself. That changed this year for a couple of reasons. First, Ford missed spring field hockey to study a semester in Ireland.
"I loved every minute of it," she said.
She also rededicated herself to field hockey, training all summer. Morris said Ford is one of the fittest players on the team, testament to her long distance running background, but she wasn't quite ready for the player she saw this fall.
"She came back in preseason and just made a huge statement," Morris said. "She's kind of the leader of the forward line. She's boosted the scoring output of others."
Ford said she came into this season with a whole new mindset after training all summer and looks forward to reaching the final four in the tough Northeast 10 Conference and perhaps beyond. So far the Skyhawks are 3-3-0 in non-conference play but begin conference play this week. Despite her varied athletic background, Ford said field hockey has always been her first love.
"I love the speed of it," she said. "I just love running in general. And it's really a skillful game, you can't get by just being fast and aggressive. It's a thinking game."
Ford, who is on a partial athletic scholarship, has been named to the Div. II National Academic squad the past three years. She served as an intern last summer for MasterCard Worldwide in New York and hopes to land a job in their college hire program following graduation.
She would eventually like to land a position at an advertising agency in Boston or New York, but the next few weeks is all about field hockey.
"I think our team is really strong this year," she said.