Ball State field hockey's Grace Chavez seeks new opportunities from old connections
With the admittance of a large freshman core to the Ball State field hockey team, one of the newcomers has stood out amongst the rest. Freshman goaltender Grace Chavez has been as described by her coach Christy Longacre as “a rock.”
In the 11 games Chavez has started this season, she has held a goals against average of 1.66, a save percentage of .750 and has two shutouts on the season. While venturing out to Indiana from Virginia has been a new experience to Chavez, the path seems all too familiar.
Growing up near a field hockey giant in Old Dominion University, Chavez often spent her summers attending the elite Beth Anders field hockey camps at the university.
Camp coaches and now Ball State head coach Christy Longacre and assistant coach Kelsey Smither were keeping a sharp eye on Chavez. When the time came for recruiting in the fall, Longacre and Smither were looking to bring Chavez to their program at Ball State.
“When we found out Chavez wasn’t getting so much love from schools that were close to home, we thought that we had to jump on this right away,” Longacre said. “Kelsey and myself played with her high school coach at Old Dominion, so we knew the type of program that she was coming from.”
Back in high school, Chavez became accustomed to early success. Picking up field hockey as a freshman, Chavez took off running earning all-conference honorable mention and led her high school to an 18-2 record in her senior season.
When approached with the idea of traveling 690 miles to play for Ball State, Chavez was skeptical due to the distance, but with the familiar faces of Longacre and Smither, she found comfort in making the trek to Muncie.
“Watching [Longacre and Smither] play at Old Dominion, they were kind of my role models,” Chavez said. “Having them coach together, Ball State was really just the perfect place for me.”
This season, Chavez has shown to be right at home. While she has found early success this season, Chavez has had to make a few adjustments from her high school style of play.
“In college I’ve had to focus more on reacting and not too much of thinking,” Chavez said. “I also try not to get down on myself when I get scored on and focus towards the next play. You have to keep getting better and not look back.”
Last season, the Cardinals made a huge program turn around in qualifying for the Mid-American Conference tournament for the first time since 2011. This season, the team has been rolling off its new found success, which Chavez is a large part of.
“She’s made some huge saves, but at the same time, it’s all 11 players on the field that need to make that work,” Longacre said. “I think her defense has been doing a great job in front of her and I think that has to do with them and their trust on and off the field.”
While Chavez has had a hot start to her freshman season and still has the Norfolk feel in Muncie, she is still in competition to claim the top spot. According to Longacre, Freshman Alison McMullen is knocking on Chavez’s door.
“Grace and Alison are still competing for that top spot,” Longacre said. “Alison did hop in the Michigan game and did really well. Just making it still competition and a battle is going to be huge for the both of them. I think they’ll feed off of it from each other.”
Chavez and the rest of the field hockey squad will host Appalachian State Saturday Oct. 21 at 1 p.m.