Denise Roca wouldn't know what to do with a spare afternoon. So three autumns ago she tried out for the Georgetown Visitation freshman field hockey team.
Roca had never played the game before, but Visitation hasn't been sorry for giving her a chance.
After five games, Roca is the school's leading scorer with four goals. And since Roca was elevated to the varsity last season, Visitation has not lost a game.
Roca prefers playing soccer - she also plays on a recreational soccer team in Arlington in the fall - but she doesn't regret taking up field hockey.
"IF they had soccer, I'd try out for that," said Roca, 17, a Cuban who left Santiago at age 3. "But I do like field hockey, too. I'd probably try to play them both if I could. But I guess I couldn't cause the games would conflict."
Visitation field hockey coach Marianne Horstmann credits Roac's success to a competitive nature and an eagerness to learn. "She's a very competitive person - she loves sports," Horstmann said. "She's a very intelligent girl, always looking to learn something. She's a very good listener."
Roca anchors Vistiation has helped her develop all the various skills, Horstmann said.
"She's very fast because of her soccer playing. She usually leads the forward line when they attack," said Horstmann, whose team is 4-0.1 and won the Independent School Association championship last season with an 8-0.1 mark. "She has very good stickwork. She has very good control of the ball as she moves down the field. And she's accurate passer. Whenever she passes the ball, she usually puts the ball right there."
Roca, however, is quick to downplay her importance to the squad. "Hockey is a team sport," said the 5-foot-6, 120-pound senior."You just can't depend on one person. Anybody on the forward line can score . . . and the halfbacks can, too."
Roca enjoys the camaraderie on the team. "That's why it's so fun to play," said the Arlington resident. "We are all together all day. It's just fun to look forward to all day, to after school. I don't see how people can go through school all day without something to look forward to."
It's not as if Roca didn't have anything elso to do with her afternoons. She currently is president of the camping club, writes for the school newspaper, and is a member of the Christian Action Society.
"You see, practive starts at 3:30 and school ends at 3. That gives me 20 minutes to go to the clubs," explained Roca, who also plays basketball in the winter and was a member of the spring softball team until the sports was discontinued after last season.
"She's one of the people where the more she has to do, the better her day goes," Horstmann said. "If she wasn't busy, she wouldn't know what to do with her time. I couldn't do it. I'd be a nervous wreck."
When Roca fashions herself as part of a team effort at Visitation, the coach of her soccer team, the Arlington Cubs, emphasizes she is the star of his 3-0 team.
"She really the inspiration for this team," said Cubs' coach Jerry Tannahill, who noted he only formed his 19-and-under Arlington Soccer Association girls' team because Roca became too old to play for his 15-and-under squad. "She is outstanding. She is among the few number of girls who can play with boys.
"She is (1), a natural athlete, and, (2), she has the inner driver for added achievement. She has the added skills she has to strive to develop that most girls don't have."
Roca, who started playing soccer six years ago on the Cubs boys team, also is a member of the Arlington All-Stars, a gathering of the league's best players.
Roca is already planning how to fill the spring void created by the disbanding of the softball team. She's going to try out for the new lacrose team.
"Lacrosse. What's it called, lacrosse?" Roca sighed. "I tried to get them to start soccer, but they had bought all the lacrosse equipment. They say if you can play field hockey, you can play lacrosse."