Yale Athletics

When forward Carol Middough ’18 arrived in New Haven in the fall of 2014, she was met with high expectations. Four field hockey seasons later, Middough has delivered and then some.

The Oceanport, N.J. native racked up a long list of accolades in high school, but quickly established herself as a dominant force in the blue and white. Middough finished her career on the leaderboards in almost every category in program history, as well as the Ivy League this season, but those stats alone offer just a glimpse into arguably Yale’s best-ever offensive player.

“I feel so lucky to have had Carol as a teammate and close friend,” back Tess Thompson ’18 said. “From day one, Carol has raised the level of competition at practice because she is such an elite player. She makes everyone around her better. Carol is a true competitor. She is so talented, but doesn’t just rest on that to get by. She was always striving to improve her game.”

Middough’s career total of 41 goals is good to tie for third in school history. She trails second-place Ashley McCaughley ’10 by just two goals and first-place Emily Montgomery ’78, who graduated four decades ago, by five. Middough’s high standing is made more impressive given her illness-derailed first season — in which she started just four games and suffered from mononucleosis — and the team’s disappointing 3–14 record in her first two years.

“After playing with someone who puts their heart and soul into the game with every breath, you begin to develop a standard for yourself to be better at all times,” back and captain-elect Jackie Kisa ’19 said. “If you watch Carol play, it is exciting and it is inspiring and it makes you want to win and aspire to be better. She would just light up when she stepped on the field, and you could feel the energy shift on the team toward her, gravitating, as if the sparks had suddenly lit a fire underneath our feet. Carol showed us that we could be better. She taught us how to win.”

To those who have followed her or the team, Middough has always been both a star and a player with further untapped potential. Despite her stunted rookie season, she still managed to sit second on the team in both goals and points, with four and eight, respectively. The next fall, a healthy Middough hit the ground running, and by September, a News feature described her as a “young star.” That year, she scored five of the team’s first six goals and finished the season with nine goals and 19 points to lead the team in both categories.

Beginning with a two-goal performance in her sophomore-season opener against Sacred Heart, Middough has started every game and led her team in goals and points for three consecutive years. She has not been complacent at the top, improving to 10 goals and 23 points in her third season. She followed that up by notching a staggering 18 goals and 40 points in her senior campaign to lead the Ivy League in both categories, propelling her team to a winning season for the first time since 2011. Although she indisputably delivered throughout her sophomore and junior years, she still felt some lingering expectations entering into her final season.

“[My first year] I got really sick and was struggling a lot because I had those expectations; I still had those pressures on me, but I definitely couldn’t physically meet any of them,” Middough said. “My sophomore season we went 3–14 again and there was still all this pressure. Senior year, this summer, I was training really hard and I kind of wanted to reach those expectations for once and be that offensive leader for the team.”

Middough was named All-Ivy three times, to the second team in her sophomore and junior seasons and then unanimously to the First Team for her senior campaign. Her senior season totals placed her atop the Ivy leaderboard in goals, points and shots. Her per-game averages of 1.059 goals and 2.35 points eclipsed those of Princeton senior forward Ryan McCarthy, the 2017 Ivy League Player of the Year, who averaged just 0.895 goals and 1.95 points per game.

To get a deeper sense of the trajectory of her career, one need look no further than a relatively unknown but revealing statistic: multiple-goal games. In 2015, her first full season with the team, Middough netted two goals in a game three times, including in the Sacred Heart opener and the season closer against Brown.

Fast forward to 2017 and her final game, against Brown, where Middough came full circle to lead her team to victory in typical fashion, scoring three times in a fitting swan song. Field hockey is a low-output sport — this past season’s Ivy leader in goals per game, Harvard, averaged 3.824 across 17 matches and no other Ivy squad averaged higher than three goals a game. Despite that, Middough’s hat trick was not a one-off performance. She opened the season with three goals against Sacred Heart to carry her team to a 6–2 victory. A month later, playing against Lehigh, on her birthday, she scored an astonishing four times to help Yale to a 7–1 win. In the team’s first Ivy victory of the season, a 5–2 win over Dartmouth, Middough was back at it again, putting up another hat trick.

“Senior year, the end kind of starts to dawn on me, and I just always want to finish feeling content with how I played,” Middough said. “That was definitely something driving me my senior season. I wanted to end with a good feeling, despite all the ups and downs in the middle.”

For all of the statistics that solidify her place as one of Yale’s greats, Middough’s priority is still the team’s wins — when asked about being happy, she comes back to talk about the importance of the winning season that eluded her team for so long until this year.

“She’s good because she trains hard, understands the different elements of the game and believes in herself as well as those around her,” forward Brooke Reese ’19 said. “Her confidence in her talent and ability as a player lets her succeed on the field. She simply cares so much and inspires us through her level of play.”

Although Middough admits it “will be weird” to be without Yale field hockey, she is excited at the prospect of a semester without the demands of a Division I athlete, displaying the sense of balance that has made her, despite the strong on-field will to win described by her teammates, successful in the program.

“That’s something [Coach Pam Stuper] has always said, that I’m very poised,” she said. “I hope that’s something my teammates can see in me and just to remember that, at the end of the day, it is just a game, and to not let it control your life or let it ruin the way you feel in the moment on the field.”

Middough is a history of art major in Pierson College.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu