Though Yale field hockey forward/midfielder Carol Middough ’18 has scored five of Yale’s six goals this season, perhaps her most significant accomplishments to date came as a high school player at Shore Regional in Ocean Port, N.J.
Her list of accolades is long, ranging from local distinctions, such as two-time state champion and Asbury Park Player of the Year, to national awards, like NFHCA first-team All-American and the third-highest single-season goal tally in the history of high school field hockey.
When Middough arrived in New Haven last year, she was greeted with high expectations.
“It was a little scary coming into the program with that pressure. People wanted a lot from me. And being sick, I couldn’t really deliver,” Middough said.
The sophomore came down with mononucleosis her freshman year, leaving her “very far from 100 percent.” She still managed to finish the season as the Bulldogs’ second-highest goal scorer and tied for second on the team in points with eight.
Midfielder Katie Smith ’18 was impressed by Middough’s grittiness as a freshman. Even while recovering from being out, according to Smith, Middough showed glimpses of what she was capable of.
“During [Middough’s] first game back after getting cleared of mononucleosis, she was on the field for about two minutes before she scored,” remembered Smith. “It wasn’t just an average goal either — it was an amazing shot. The best part was that after she scored, she just fell to the turf out of exhaustion, as if shooting that ball took all of the energy she had. It was awesome.”
Overall, however, Middough’s first year at Yale was largely derailed by illness. She only appeared in 13 of the team’s 17 games and started four.
When finally healthy in 2015, Middough came out with a bang, netting Yale’s two goals — including the game-winner in overtime — against Sacred Heart in the season opener.
“The Sacred Heart game was really important to me,” said Middough. “Being healthy, I felt like people were expecting certain things from me. And playing well took a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Now, through five games, Middough has five of Yale’s six total goals, including a pair of game-winners.
According to teammates, Middough’s feel for the game and general field hockey awareness is part of what makes her successful.
“Carol has incredible game sense,” captain Noelle Villa ’16 said. “She can read defenders really well and use her skill to generate dynamic attack.”
Middough attributes this game sense to her many years of playing experience. The sophomore began playing field hockey in elementary school.
According to Smith, Middough combines a special field hockey IQ with the physical tools necessary to be a great attacker.
“She has amazing stick skills and speed … she’s so good, she makes it look easy,” Smith said. “Seeing her at full strength this season is awesome.”
Middough improved her speed by competing for her high school’s track and field team, which she captained her senior year. Still, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer is hesitant to detail her strengths as a player.
“[I’m] hard working, I’m a very calm player,” said Middough. “I try not to lose my cool. [Coach Pam Stuper] always said I have great poise.”
Even after the success she’s had on the high school and collegiate levels, Middough is working to build confidence.
Following an injury-plagued 2014, the sophomore feels more prepared to be part of the team. Being injury free has allowed her to show what she is capable of not just to others, but also to herself.
“I definitely feel like I belong [in this program]. Confidence-wise, I’m still feeling it out,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I feel completely confident … but being healthy has changed everything. Coming into the year I was pretty nervous because I hadn’t really experienced the college game.”
In just her second year as a Bulldog, Middough has emerged as a leader on a Yale roster that only fields two seniors — Villa and midfielder Nicole Wells ’16, a staff reporter for the News.
Middough said that she takes on a leadership role, and that though Villa is the team’s captain, the sophomore does what she can to contribute to a positive team atmosphere.
The budding Ivy League star — who Wells referred to as “the type of player that you love to have on your team, but would hate to play against” — also has a couple of quirks when it comes to game day. First off, Middough gets a lot of flack from her teammates because she cannot eat pizza the night before a game.
“I just move really slowly … something about it does not sit well with me. It’s very strange,” Middough said. “I’m also superstitious about my hair, I’ve had the same hairstyle in almost every single game I have ever played in since middle school.”
Middough will avoid pizza and wear her hair as usual for Yale’s Alumnae Day bout with Harvard at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Crimson is the Bulldogs’ first conference opponent of the year.
The New Jersey native will try to embrace the pressure.
“People see my high school stats and have preconceived ideas about the type of player I am,” Middough said. “It’s tough to come in with that kind of pressure but it’s also a good pressure because it makes me want to prove myself even more.”