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Lakeland's Gonzalez Making a Mark in Field Hockey

LAKELAND, N.Y. -  Field hockey coach Sharon Sarsen found herself up at the crack of dawn Sunday morning, much earlier than usual.

She arose with the sun and turned on the television in preparation for the United States National Women’s Field Hockey team’s game against Ireland. Sarsen was interested in one player specifically, 2007 Lakeland graduate and four-year varsity starter, Melissa Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who recently graduated from the University of Connecticut, is among 24 players vying for a spot on the team that is attempting to qualify for the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

“It’s exciting for Melissa,” Sarsen said.

Gonzalez, who helped Lakeland win state championships in 2004 and 2007, is considered one of the top players in Section 1 history. Gonzalez was an artist with the stick and a lethal scorer, leading Section 1 her senior year.

Gonzalez went on to have a highly-successful collegiate career. She was a three-time all-Big-East first-team selection and was the Big East defensive player of the team and all-America selection in her junior and senior years.

Gonzalez was a member of the 2009 U.S. Junior World Cup team She has made the transition from offense to defense without any difficulty. Sarsen said Gonzalez is currently playing in a defensive midfield capacity.

“She was a great offensive player and because of this, she has played hard defensively,” Sarsen said. “It is her tenacity and ability to go after the ball that stands out. Defensively, she is never completely beat. Melissa is always there and in your face. She is tough to get by.”

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