A starter for the Watterson High School field hockey team the last two seasons, Abby Marshall has earned the respect of her coaches and teammates by hustling to the ball and making momentum-changing plays.
Through eight games, the sophomore midfielder had two goals, two assists and more than 100 pass interceptions to help lead the Eagles, who were 5-2-1 overall and 4-0 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division before playing New Albany on Sept. 23 and Bexley on Sept. 24.
"Abby's an unbelievable athlete who has tremendous speed on the ball and great stick work," coach Janet Baird said. "She provides a major spark for us. When we need someone to make a big offensive or defensive play, Abby is often the one who makes it happen.
"Abby can beat people one-on-one and she's good at setting her teammates up with assists. We use her as a striker on offensive penalty corners because of her stick skills. And she plays defense on corners, too, because she has the speed and desire to hustle to the ball."
Marshall is motivated to give her best effort every game after receiving a health scare that brought her freshman season to a premature end and had her on crutches for six months, leaving her to wonder if she would play the sport again.
"I remind myself before every game that it could be my last one, and I try to do my best and live my life to its fullest because I know what it feels like to have everything suddenly taken away," she said.
Marshall might best be described as a tomboy, given that she has grown up on a five-acre farm in Galena, where she has done strenuous chores alongside her brothers, Caleb and Joseph, and has played sports with them.
She has never been one to shy away from competing against boys. She played baseball for two years and played ice hockey for six years before switching to field hockey four years ago.
"I started off in figure skating, but I wanted to play ice hockey because I wanted to check people instead of prancing around on the ice," she said. "My dad (Jeff) made me quit ice hockey because the boys were getting to be a lot bigger than me and he didn't want me to get hurt, so I started playing field hockey in sixth grade because it uses a lot of the same stick-handling skills.
"Field hockey can get pretty rough, though, and I was nicknamed 'Blood' by my teammates because I injured a lot of people at first."
Marshall not only was the lone freshman on varsity last season, but she earned a starting position. Watterson finished 19-2 a year ago, including a 16-1 record with her in the lineup.
However, Marshall began feeling pain in her left hip in August 2012 and opted not to tell her parents until last October, at which time the pain had intensified to the point where she was having trouble sleeping.
"I didn't tell anyone because I was afraid that they wouldn't let me keep playing, so I just tried to hide my pain," she said. "But the pain got so bad that I was able to sleep only one hour over a two-week period and it started to affect my grades, and that's when I knew I needed to have it checked out."
Initially diagnosed with a fractured left femur, Marshall had to sit out Watterson's final four postseason games, including its 2-1 double-overtime loss to Columbus Academy in the state final.
"That was absolutely devastating for me because I went from having this amazing experience of being an important part of our team to feeling like I had let everyone down," she said. "I came to every event and cheered my teammates on the best I could, but I was extremely upset that I couldn't be out there helping out on the field and I spent the entire month of November crying my eyes out."
Still in pain last December, Marshall went to see a second doctor, who diagnosed her as having a hip impingement and recommended a surgical procedure to repair her hip joint. It wasn't until she visited a third doctor and underwent a second MRI that a tumor was discovered in her left femur.
Two days later, the tumor was found to be benign and she underwent surgery to have it removed in early March.
"It was so scary when we found out she had a tumor in her bone," said her mother, Beverly. "When you hear the word tumor, a lot of bad thoughts such as cancer go through your mind and you fear for the worst. If it turned out to be malignant, we didn't know if she was ever going to be able to walk again, much less get back to playing field hockey."
Once off crutches in April, Marshall joined the girls track and field team to help rebuild the strength in her left leg. She also played field hockey this summer for a club team to prepare for this season.
"The whole experience was frustrating and extremely scary, but I'm so grateful that my prayers came true and the tumor wasn't cancerous," she said. "I feel like God has given me another chance, so I've been pushing myself to be my best ever since I've been able to play again."
When Marshall wasn't able to compete in field hockey, she devoted more time to helping out on her family's farm, caring for goats, rabbits, cattle and horses.
She also competed for the Delaware County Senior Equine team in Ohio 4-H events during the spring and summer, winning titles in the Ohio State Fair Horse Skillathon, the Ohio 4-H Hippology, the Ohio State Fair Senior Goat Showcase and the Ohio State Fair 15-and-under Goat Skillathon.
She helped the equine team win state titles in Ohio 4-H's Horse Bowl, Horse Judging and Hippology competitions and qualify for the All-American Quarter Horse Congress Horse Bowl and Hippology national events Oct. 15 and 16 in Columbus as well as the U.S. National Arabian Horse Judging Contest on Oct. 25 in Tulsa, Okla., and the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup Horse Bowl on Nov. 9 in Louisville, Ky.
"Spending time with my animals and being part of the equine team was definitely a light in those dark times for me," Marshall said. "Since I wasn't able to do field hockey, I spent an hour studying for the equine competitions each day and I spent a lot more time raising and milking our dairy goats. That's what kept me going while I was going through all of the pain and frustration of my injury."
Boys golf team places 4th in CCL
The boys golf team shot a 330 to finish fourth in the CCL postseason tournament Sept. 21 at Cooks Creek, behind St. Charles (304), DeSales (318) and Hartley (328) and ahead of and Ready (448).
David Shepherd led the Eagles with an 81, followed by Seth Cones (82), Nick Naderhoff (83), Nick DiCello (84), Brian Sapp (86) and Phil Campisi (87).
Watterson was seeded eighth of 22 teams in the district and competed in the 11-team Division II sectional Sept. 30 at The Players Club at Foxfire. The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team qualified for the district Monday, Sept. 30, at River Greens.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team at district advance to state Oct. 11 and 12 at NorthStar.
Last year, Watterson placed third at district when only the top two teams advanced to state.
Football team gets set to face LaSalle
The football team will be looking to end its three-game losing streak when it travels to Cincinnati LaSalle on Friday, Sept. 27.
Watterson was held to 71 total yards in a 17-0 loss to Cincinnati Winton Woods on Sept. 20, as it fell to 1-3.
The Eagles lost to LaSalle 35-16 last season and 28-3 in 2011. The Lancers, who lost their final five games after playing Watterson last year to finish 4-6, lost to Fort Wayne (Ind.) Dwenger 31-24 on Sept. 20 to drop to 3-1.
LaSalle, which is averaging 44.2 points, is led by sophomore quarterback Nick Watson (43-for-66 passing, 478 yards, 10 TDs), senior running back LeRon Brock (33 carries, 232 yards, 1 TD), junior wide receiver Kevin Ferguson (19 receptions, 300 yards, 3 TDs) and 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior wide receiver Derek Kief (14 receptions, 147 yards, 3 TDs).
Kief has verbally committed to the University of Alabama.
The Eagles have been led by junior quarterback Sam Maglicic (15-for-55 passing for 165 yards, 1 TD and 96 yards rushing), senior wide receiver Ryan Urquhart (5 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD) and senior running back Walter Green (125 yards rushing).
Seniors Cody Calhoun (DB), Kyle Fada (DL), Eli Kirk (LB) and Patrick Pirrman (DB) have been leading the defense.
Girls soccer team earns tie with Lions
The girls soccer team was 5-0-4 overall and 2-0 in the CCL before playing Columbus School for Girls on Sept. 23.
The Eagles tied Gahanna at 1 on Sept. 21 on a goal by midfielder Emily Ganz and four saves by goalkeeper Marissa Wierzbicki.