OAK PARK — New Trier field hockey coach Stephanie Nykaza was happy to talk about leading scorer Tierney Behles after a two-goal performance from the senior attacker.
She didn’t want senior midfielder Maddy Burds to go unnoticed, however.
“She’s a huge, huge contributor,” Nykaza said. “She’s the workhorse on the field.”
Nykaza said it’s easy to miss Burds sometimes. After all, the midfielder is just 5-foot-6 on a team where “a lot of our attack players, it’s very strange, are very lanky.”
Going unnoticed is also part of the nature of the position. If Burds is doing her job well and quickly passing the ball off, she puts her teammates in positions to make standout plays.
“She’s a real stable person on our field,” Nykaza said. “Sometimes what happens is the real stable players that kind of keep the game flowing, we don’t notice them as much because then the other players shine off of her.”
At one moment, Burds will be on the offensive end, leading a fast break. At the next moment, she’ll be behind her defensive line, playing the field hockey equivalent of free safety and marking any girl who gets through the Trevians’ defense.
“I’m part of most stuff on the field,” Burds said. “I’m not a big playmaker. I don’t take the ball myself a lot, but I definitely always try to support all my teammates, whether it’s cutting in front of the forwards or cutting behind the defense to help block the goal. I’m just like everywhere on the field. That’s basically what I do.”
Burds’ fitness was put to the test at this past weekend’s Huskie Invitational, when New Trier played four games in less than 24 hours in unseasonably warm weather.
Burds said her team was helped by Nykaza’s imposing fitness regime. Recently, they’ve been running “the gauntlet,” which consists of a timed mile, a timed half-mile, a timed quarter-mile, four 100-yard sprints and four 50-yard sprints.
“I’ve been actually on the track and field team, and we run more than the track and field team,” Burds said. “It stinks to have to run so much in practice, but when you have four games in less than 48 hours, it really helps.”
Burds’ ability to speed up the game is crucial to the way Nykaza wants to play.
“We had to fall into the sync of our game,” Nykaza said. “We’re a pretty fast team, but we got to get ourselves moving in that direction.”