The Pocomoke community honored the late Susan Pusey with a color run during the homecoming ceremonies during the past weekend.
Video by Ryan Marshall
An overtime loss to the University of Delaware in the 2015 CAA Field Hockey Championships closed the book on Taylor West’s career at James Madison University.
The former Pocomoke standout who won four state championships had dominated for the Dukes during her five college seasons, winning countless accolades.
As she walked off the field at the JMU Field Hockey Complex, West had cemented herself in the Dukes’ record books, finishing fourth in goals (56) and points (130), while also being just the sixth player to reach 50-plus goals during her college career.
“Your senior year, you’re wondering if that’s going to be your last game, so it was a thought I had that this could be it,” West said.
But the Princess Anne native loved the game too much to give it up. Even though she would no longer be wearing the purple and gold, West had her sights on a new field hockey jersey — one that sported the red, white and blue.
In January 2016, West was invited to join the USA Field Hockey team, an international squad that competes in the top field hockey tournaments from March to November.
Although she wouldn’t join the squad until 2017, West was excited to begin her new career as a professional field hockey player.
“I’ve really enjoyed my first year on the team. It’s really something I love, and it’s really neat to be able to play hockey as my job,” West said.
After dominating at the high school and college levels, West was determined to make her mark on the sport’s biggest stage and become a solid option for Team USA.
Based out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, West and her teammates are put through tough and exhausting practices at times to up their game to the highest level.
“There’s always stuff to improve on, even fundamentally there’s little tweaks. The older girls have so much knowledge, so you just try and soak up what you can from them,” West said. “The speed of the game is just so quick, so you’ve got to think a lot quicker and make decisions in a split second.”
Once 2017 rolled around, West believed she had readied herself to go against the top field hockey players across the world.
Team USA opened its schedule by competing in The Hawke’s Bay Cup and the Citi USA vs. Ireland Test Series. Though West did not see game action, she did net her first goal in a scrimmage against New Zealand.
As she continued to enhance her skills on the practice field, West desperately waited for the call that would activate her on game day.
And just before Team USA’s trip to South Africa for the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals, that call finally came.
“It was very exciting. It was an email I got actually, and I kind of had to read it a couple of times to make sure that I didn’t read it wrong,” West said. “It was a lifelong dream I kind of had had.”
In her first trip to South Africa, West was quick to make her presence known.
Although she was not credited with the score, West helped Team USA get the winning goal in its second matchup of the tournament against India.
Taking the ball down the right side of the field, West went to send a shot into the cage, but had it inadvertently hit in by one of India’s defenders. The goal gave Team USA the 2-1 lead and ultimately led to a 4-1 victory.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from. You can come from a school with thousands of kids or small town like Pocomoke — as long as you prepare, work hard and enjoy it, you can do anything,” West said.
But back-to-back losses at the hands of Argentina and South Africa set Team USA back. Although they qualified for the quarterfinals, team members would have to improve their basics and fundamentals if they wanted a shot at a gold medal.
Victories over England and Japan put Team USA up against Germany in the World League finals, where West would once again play a major role.
Down 1-0 to Germany with time running down, Team USA was awarded a penalty stroke and a chance to send the game into a shootout.
Like she had done so many times in her career, West stepped up to take one of the most important shots of her life.
“I was a little nervous, but I was confident I could get the shot in and give us the opportunity to win the game,” West said.
With one solid, powerful swing, West sent the ball flying into the back of the cage and successfully tied the game up. As the teams went into a shootout round, the USA once again stepped up and made the shots it needed, winning the contest 3-2 and capturing its first tournament victory of 2017.
“It was my first big international tournament, and it was so cool to play in front of that crowd. Our success as a team was amazing, and it was just a great tournament overall,” West said.
The team will now set its focus to the Pan American Cup taking place in Pennsylvania from Aug. 4-13.
Although she has now played and seen success on field hockey’s biggest stage, West still remains in shock when she wakes up in the morning.
Unlike many of her former teammates who have gone on to become doctors, teachers or business women, West can look herself in the mirror and say she is a professional athlete.
“I’m really enjoying playing. Sometimes it still doesn’t quite seem real, but still being able to play, because this is the only opportunity post-college to play, I’m just very fortunate to be able to keep playing for a little bit longer,” West said.