Sometimes an event that seems like a stroke of misfortune can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. For first-year field hockey midfielder Sophia Urrutia, this turned out to be the case when she tore the labrum in her hip.
“I got injured playing soccer in middle school and I just picked up field hockey as another sport to play,” Urrutia said. “I ended up being a lot better at it than I anticipated; by eighth grade I was on varsity for my school.”
Urrutia’s early success has carried over to present day, as it was announced on Nov. 9 by the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) office that she was named the conference Rookie of the Year as well as being listed as a member of the All-SUNYAC Second Team. This comes despite the fact that Urrutia, who was recruited as a forward, played the whole season as a midfielder, a position she had never played before.
“[Sophia] came to New Paltz as a forward, and as the season began we realized that due to injuries we needed someone to step into the right mid position,” Hawks head coach Shanna Vitale said. “We thought it would only be temporary, but [Sophia] started at the right mid position all of our games and played every single minute. She ended up exceeding our expectations.
“For a freshman to come into a program and make such an impact immediately is a very difficult thing to do. [Sophia] really took on a role that she wasn’t familiar with, embraced it and created positive change on the field. She did a tremendous job this season helping us with our victories and becoming a better team.”
This season Urrutia led the Hawks with seven assists, which was tied for fifth in the SUNYAC. She also notched two goals, including the game-winning goal in her collegiate debut against St. Lawrence University on Sept. 3. She became the second player in program history to ever receive the SUNYAC Rookie of the Year award, the other being Kaitlin Ruggiero who earned the award as a defender in 2004.
Aside from having to adjust to a new position, Urrutia has also had to overcome other adversity on the field. She noted her stature as an obstacle she has had to face during her playing career.
“The most difficult part is that field hockey is one of those sports that requires you to use every part of your body,” she said. “It’s a very physically strenuous sport and I’m very small. So having to overcome my size was a big thing because I’ll play girls that are physically stronger than me and a lot bigger than me.”
Urrutia cited her teammates from past and present as her inspiration to continue with the sport despite the challenges she has had to face.
“I had a couple of older girls who were on varsity when I was younger that really inspired me to keep playing and work through adversity,” she said. “I would say that the upperclassmen both on my team at New Paltz and my team in high school really helped me and inspired me to continue.”
Having three years left with the field hockey program at New Paltz, Urrutia may very likely one day serve as inspiration for some of her future teammates. She has already set goals for what she expects from herself and her team the rest of her time at New Paltz.
“I want to keep our program on the map,” she said. “We’ve had very successful past seasons, whereas this season was a little bit different. As a SUNY school that’s Div. III we keep up with some of the best private schools in the country. To just keep that reputation and continue to be successful is what I want.”
Her head coach has plenty of faith that Urrutia can help the team accomplish that goal.
“I would say [Sophia] is an old soul, she’s wise beyond her years,” Vitale said. “She is not afraid to speak her mind, which from a freshman standpoint is difficult to do. She is also very engaging, on the field and off the field and is always trying to figure out ways to get better. She is someone that always wants to learn and isn’t satisfied with where she is. She really has been a blessing to have in this program.”