Tana Hernandez probably won't lead the Fauquier High School field hockey team in any offensive categories this year, and she never has been much of a rah-rah player.
Falcons Coach Linda Lee even says the senior midfielder is so consistently good that sometimes she seems invisible.
"Everything comes so easily to her," Lee said. "Sometimes, she almost looks lazy."
But in fact, Hernandez is the team's best all-around player, according to Lee. Putting up big numbers is secondary--Hernandez's strengths lie in her stick skills and her versatility.
And this season, the Falcons' fate lies largely in her hands as they try to replace all 11 starters from last year's team, which went 11-5 and repeated as the champion of the Group AA state invitational tournament. Fauquier moves up to AAA this year.
Hernandez, although quiet on the field, has embraced the leadership role.
The team has what it calls a big-sister, little-sister program, in which juniors and seniors act as mentors for freshmen and sophomores. The upperclassmen's duties include making goody bags--full of fruit, snacks, drinks and occasionally a letter--for the junior varsity players before their games.
This year, Hernandez's little sister is Ellen Denise, a freshman who is playing on varsity despite the fact she never had played field hockey before. Denise is good friends with Tana's sister, Karen, a link on the junior varsity team.
The program has been important to Hernandez ever since she was a freshman, when then-senior goalie Erin Holtz was her big sister.
"It made me feel a lot better," Hernandez remembered. "I got to know my sister pretty well. At first I was kind of nervous talking to this girl I didn't even know. But she really made me feel comfortable.
"It gave me somebody to look at. Even though she was a goalie, I watched what she did in practice. I wanted to be able to perform like her."
When Hernandez started her junior year, she found herself modeling Holtz.
"It was in my practice habits and listening to coaches," she said.
Despite losing last year's starters, the Falcons are not completely inexperienced. The attack is headed by three seniors, Katherine Dart, Landis Sargent and Cathleen Sienkiewicz. And the midfield is run by Hernandez, a fourth-year player.
"We want to be able to work together," Hernandez said. "We want to step it up and be as competitive as we can against all these AAA teams."
Hernandez, who played often on last year's team, said she and her current teammates aren't intimidated by the success of the past two years.
"I guess there is that pressure there, but that's natural," she said. "We have confidence in ourselves, and we believe if we're practicing everything right, it'll come out in the games, and it'll come out for us."
Hernandez said she has no real aspirations for playing field hockey in college. So her main goals for this season are mentally, not performance, based.
"That I've impressed the rest of the team, and that they have built the confidence in me throughout the season so they can have confidence in me out on the field," she said.
"And that it was a lot of fun," she added.
CAPTION: "We have confidence in ourselves, and we believe if we're practicing everything right, it'll come out in the games," Tana Hernandez said.
CAPTION: Hernandez, right, and teammate Sarah Gargagliano are part of Fauquier High field hockey team that must replace all 11 starters from last season.