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‘Hart’ of the Powerhouse

Centreville forward Haili Hartman's slick playmaking and humble leadership boosts Wildcats to 10-0 record.

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Centreville forward Haili Hartman stick handles the ball around a Washington-Lee defender in the Wildcats 2-1 victory. "She's a leader on this team. Her play energizes us. She can change momentum with a single play," teammate Susie Lesniewski said.

Centreville High School field hockey forward Haili Hartman might be too modest when it comes to her field hockey abilities.

Ask about her individual accomplishments on the field hockey turf and she'll credit her teammates for getting her there. Attempt to discuss her rare ability to change a game with one energetic rush and she'll say she got lucky.

If only it looked lucky.

In the Wildcats 2-1 victory against Washington-Lee High on Sept. 24, Hartman displayed that game-changing style of play as time dwindled down with the score even at one.

With 10 minutes left in the second half, the Wildcats, who were exhausted from their 2-0 victory over Chantilly the night before, sprang to life when a clear attempt reached Hartman's stick at midfield.

Hartman collected the pass, smoothly cradled the ball around the Washington-Lee defenders with ease, and punched a shot on net that brought the goalie to her knees and the Wildcats' bench to its feet.

Although the shot didn't find the back of the net, it re-energized the Wildcats, who had dragged through the early portions of the second half.

"[Hartman] has a ton of energy," senior midfielder Susie Lesniewski said. "She's a leader on this team. Her play energizes us. She can change momentum with a single play."

Changing momentum wasn't the only rabbit Hartman pulled out of her hat. She also had a hand in creating the Wildcats’ game-winning goal.

During a penalty corner, Hartman received the inbounding pass and fired it at the net. A Washington-Lee defender blocked the shot, but junior Katie Russell scooped up the loose ball and scored.

Hartman's spirit-boosting breakaway and selflessness might have preserved the Wildcats’ 10-0 record, but the senior forward refused to take credit for her play.

"I just was in the right place for the rush," said Hartman, a first team all-region selection from the 2008-2009. "I wouldn't have gotten up there if it wasn't for the team. I wouldn't be able to make those plays without my team."

Although Hartman is quick to downplay her abilities, her teammates know she's the go-to-girl.

"I can always find [Hartman] on the field," Lesniewski said. "She's got great stick skills, great speed and great passing. This year she's gotten even better. It's just a lot of fun to play with her."

Hartman's strong play doesn't happen by chance. "I think about the game before it starts," she said. "I visualize what I want to happen."

After the game, Hartman showed another characteristic of a strong leader — she's hungry for more.

"This was not our best game," she said. "We didn't play our best and I know we are so much better [than today's game]."

Hartman is right. The Wildcats have cruised through opponents, outscoring them 36 to 7 this season, but Head Coach Meg Doran warned the squad about complacency.

"This was not at all a depiction of our abilities," Doran said. "We've been very happy with our season up until now. The girls were tired but that's no excuse."

Despite the close call against Washington-Lee, the unbeaten streak is a major accomplishment for a program that three seasons ago was 2-12-2.

"[The current team] has a strong overall commitment to field hockey," Doran said. "They've worked together since they were freshmen [and] they've worked hard outside of school and in the offseason. We want to get back to where Centreville was before I coached here."

Doran's goal is a stiff challenge, but unbeaten streak suggests the team is nearing that goal. Centreville last won the Concorde District 2003. Centreville's two regional titles came in 2000-2001.

Hartman, who has been a varsity player since her freshman year, said the team is using past seasons as motivation for this year's goals.

"We've been playing against teams that we lost to in the past," Hartman said. "We just kept working together because we knew we could get to this point. We've been a losing team before and we know how it feels."

Lesniewski, her teammate and co-captain, said during the team's training trip to Virginia Beach, the girls made it a goal to go unbeaten.

"We talked about how good we could be," Lesniewski said. "We said we wanted to go 14-0 and win the district."

While an unbeaten streak might make some teams overconfident, Hartman and her teammates remain focused.

"We can't get cocky," she said. "If we just play our game as a team, then we'll be unstoppable."