This Saturday the Hopkins field hockey team tacked yet another win onto their record by defeating the Muhlenburg College Mules 4-1 at Homewood Field. Sophomore midfielder Abby Birk was a driving force behind the Jays’ victory, scoring two goals and one assist over the course of the match.
An immediate impact player since she stepped on campus, Birk was a Second Team All-Centennial Conference awardee last year when she tied for third on the team in points and goals, with 22 and eight respectively, and tied for second in assists, with six. Three of her assists also came during the postseason run that the Jays went on last season, including one that led to the game winning goal in the Jays’ overtime victory over top-seeded Messiah College.
Continuing on her strong freshman campaign, Birk has been a key player for the Jays this season as well, with 12 assists and 22 points on record. Her 12 assists are far and away the best on the team, with the three-way tie for second being three assists. They also rank as the best in the Centennial Conference, four more than the runner-up, and in the points category she ranks fifth in the Conference.
Many of her contributions have come during key Conference matchups. When facing Centennial opposition, Birk has been a catalyst that has allowed the Hopkins unit to have a ton of success. She leads the team in points, goals and assists and will have a critical role in the closing weeks of regular season play as the Jays go for back-to-back Centennial titles.
This week, The News-Letter had the chance to speak with Birk about her development as a player and her goals for the season.
The News-Letter: Despite being only a sophomore, you’ve already tied for 10th in school history for assists (18), and you lead the team in points on the year. How have you been able to not only create these opportunities for your teammates but also to rack up so many assists so quickly?
Abby Birk: This season in the midfield we have been focusing on having strong first touches on the ball to create space. Additionally, we have worked on having the proper timing and pace of our passes into the circle to put the forwards in the best position to score.
I think this has helped us to create scoring opportunities on the attack, specifically on fast break opportunities. Most importantly though, my teammates have done an amazing job of finishing in the circle, which has allowed me to assist so many of their goals.
N-L: How have you improved as a player between this season and your last season?
AB: I think my strength on the ball, discipline and confidence have improved between this season and last. As a team we’ve put in so much work on the field and in the weight room since last November, and I think this extra effort has set us up well for success this season.
N-L: What are you currently working on to improve as a player or to contribute to the team?
AB: I’m currently working on having a more consistent shot on goal and improving my field vision under pressure.
N-L: Has anyone on the team in particular been a mentor to you in your growth as a player?
AB: All of my teammates are so supportive on and off the field, but I think Seema Sajjan and Katie McErlean have really helped me grow as a player. Both play in the midfield with me and helped me learn and adjust to our team’s style of play last year as a freshman.
They also both push me so hard in practice. This competitive environment has allowed me to improve and grow as a player over the past two years. Additionally, their leadership this year as captains has been integral to our success as a team.
N-L: What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of this season?
AB: By the end of the season, I hope to have won the Centennial Conference and the National Championship.