Lexie Nugent had a decision to make her freshman year at Spring-Ford.
In one hand, she dangled her basketball sneakers, which represented the hardwood and the first competitive sport she came to know and love.
In her other hand, a field hockey stick and goggles, which would represent grass, dirt and a commitment to learning a completely new trade.
“I couldn’t give up either to focus on the other,” she recalled. “Basketball was the sport I’d played since I was a little girl and I was fascinated by field hockey. There’s something about the game — the contact and the aggressiveness of it — that drew me toward field hockey early on.”
That early curiosity eventually channeled into a passion as Nugent spent the next four seasons crafting her skill on the field and developing into one of Spring-Ford’s most potent offensive threats this past fall.
Due to her efforts, Nugent is the Pottstown Mercury’s All-Area Field Hockey Player of the Year.
“I love the team aspect that comes with field hockey,” said Nugent, who is also a member of the Rams’ basketball team. “It takes all 11 players for a field hockey team to be successful. There’s no way around it. There can’t be one person dominating the ball — it’s an entire team effort.”
That balanced offensive attack was on full display for Spring-Ford throughout the season. The Rams saw 10 scorers find twine on the season, with Nugent leading the way in goals (21) as well as assists (13). The Miami University of Ohio commit finished the year tied for fourth with Methacton’s Olivia Hoover in the Pioneer Athletic Conference in goals scored and tied for third with Upper Perkiomen’s Liz Fox in assists.
Three years after playing alongside Spring-Ford greats such as Alyssa Chillano (Duke University) and 2012 Player of the Year Gab Major (University of North Carolina) as a freshman, Nugent credits just about all of her field hockey success to those who helped develop her game in its earliest stages.
“It was intimidating my freshman year,” she said. “I came in having never played field hockey before. It was awesome just getting a chance to be on the field with them, though. They taught me a lot and made me grow as a player a lot faster than most freshman would be used to.
“Alyssa, Gab, my coaches and even my parents were so encouraging right from the start. That season really helped me become the player that I am now.”
Over the course of the next four seasons, Nugent — once a freshman who needed coaching on how to correctly grip her stick — developed into a force to be reckoned with.
“The biggest thing we saw her develop was her goal-scoring ability,” said Spring-Ford head coach Jennie Anderson, who coached Nugent all four seasons. “This year she was able to use her speed and stick skills to create scoring opportunities, which she capitalized on.”
The Rams were 5-1 this season in games where Nugent registered multiple points, including her five-goal showing in a rout of Upper Merion during Spring-Ford’s nine-game winning streak. She registered a point in 17 games as Spring-Ford finished the season 12-7-1 (10-2-1 PAC). The Rams eventually punched their ticket to the Pioneer Athletic Conference Final Four — their first trip since the 2012 season — where they eventually fell 1-0 in the opening round to eventual-champion Owen J. Roberts.
That loss still sticks with Nugent. Like any natural-born leader — sometimes to a fault — she pointed the finger at herself that night.
“I hate to lose more than I like to win,” she said. “I put the team on my shoulders and kind of blamed myself for the loss, as I always would. I was a forward, I was the leader on our offense. I felt like it was my responsibility to generate something and I couldn’t get it done.”
That was her competitive nature speaking. The same one that Anderson says has taken Nugent as far as she’s come since she first took the field.
“Her competitiveness has helped her fine-tune her skills and has made her become the player she is today,” she said. “She gives 100 percent in everything she does and is always pushing herself to be better.”
Much like her skill and awareness level increased throughout the years, so did her love and passion for the game.
“I think my understanding of the little things in the game is where I grew the most,” she said. “But I know that I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m excited to see what these next four years bring.”
Now as she gears up for a fresh start at Miami University of Ohio, Nugent has already made her decision on field hockey versus basketball. It’s just a matter of how far she’ll carry her stick and goggles.