NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Twenty-four hours before the biggest game of her already impressive career, West Essex field hockey sophomore Ellie Decker was ready. The Knights had prepared for this moment for years, with a strong team that had finally reached the Tournament of Champions final—the ultimate goal for any New Jersey team.
Only two hours later, Decker’s season was in jeopardy of being over, but her strength has earned her the title of The Joint Chiropractic’s West Essex Athlete of the Week.
Decker has flashed potential to be a superstar in the sport from the start of her career, but West Essex field hockey has an exceptionally strong veteran team, led this season by five standout seniors and some talented juniors. However, as Decker’s sophomore season progressed, she took on a larger role with each passing game.
By the end of the season, she led the Knights in goals with 37 and also accumulated the second-most assists on the team with 22.
“Ellie’s biggest moment came when she made the Junior Olympics, which gave her a lot of confidence,” head coach Jill Cosse said. “From that point on, she got better with every game.”
Decker agreed with Cosse that confidence played a large role in her progression.
“The main difference between this year and last year was my confidence,” Decker said. “Last year I felt young and did not want to overstep. This year I had a bigger role to play.”
Decker stated that she did what my team needed her to do and felt like an integral part of the team because of it.
“I really owe it all to my seniors who truly were the ones constantly boosting my confidence, pushing me to be the best I can be and making me believe in myself,” she said.
West Essex had a special season, winning the Tournament of Champions for the first time in the program’s history. However, after spraining her ankle at 8 p.m. on the night before the game, doctors had serious doubt that Decker would be able to play.
“When I sprained my ankle, I freaked out a little, but not once did I believe there was a chance I would be sitting out of the game,” she said. “We reached the game of our dreams, and a sprained ankle was not going to affect me.”
Decker played that night and her team ultimately defeated Eastern by a score of 2-1 in overtime. She ended the year as the Essex/Union Conference Player of the Year, a member of the All-Group 2 First Team and All-State Second team.
Decker’s growth over the past year is no surprise to those who have been around her throughout her career, as supporters said she has always loved the sport and is willing to dedicate herself to improvement.
“This 2016 team has a very prolific attack and we can attack from any point of the field,” Cosse said. “To stand out among this group, Ellie got her timing down. It took a lot of work and staying after, but she was willing to put in the work and extra time to learn the nuances of the position.”
Even after their stellar seniors graduate, the West Essex field hockey program has a bright future ahead, with its top three scorers, including Decker, returning for the 2017 season.
“My goal is to continue the legacy the seniors left for us and to keep working as hard as I can to keep West Essex at the top of its game,” Decker said. “I do it all because I love it and want to be the best I can be.”
West Essex High School Athlete of the Week is brought to you by The Joint Chiropractic of West Caldwell, which encourages all athletes to use chiropractic adjustments in their training to prevent injuries and improve their performance. Click HERE to learn more.