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Cristina Lopez ’20 Looks Back on a Memorable Field Hockey CareerStandout Midfielder Earns All-American Recognition

When Cristina Lopez ’20 was in elementary school in suburban Baltimore, her mother founded a recreational field hockey program. Lopez loved soccer, but she was something less than enthusiastic about playing field hockey. “Mom played when she was at Middlebury College, and she kind of dragged me to practices in the new league she started,” Lopez recalled. “But when I got to high school and had to choose between field hockey and soccer, the field hockey practices fit better into my schedule. And soon, I grew to love it.”

Lopez’s love of the game blossomed into an outstanding collegiate career. She capped her four seasons at Vassar by being named a Second Team All-American by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association.

All-American Cristina Lopez ’20

By her junior year in high school, Lopez was excelling on a club team in Baltimore County, where she drew the notice of Vassar Head Coach Michael Warari. “I’d never heard of Vassar when Michael first reached out to me,” Lopez said, “but when I learned what a great academic tradition it had, I made the trip to the campus. After an overnight visit with some members of the team, I knew I’d fit in.”

Lopez was right about fitting in. A gifted midfielder, she was in the starting lineup for the first game of her first season and excelled immediately. She was a key member of the 2018 Vassar team that won its first-ever Liberty League championship, and she was a First Team All-Liberty League selection in each of her last two seasons. But she said earning All-American recognition was definitely a surprise. “I play a position where I don’t score a lot, so to be recognized by the coaches was really humbling,” she said.

Lopez said she was grateful to Warari and all of her teammates for creating a culture for field hockey at Vassar that drew national attention. But she said she was especially inspired by Monica Feeley ’19, who had earned All-American honors the year before and had been a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year. “Monica reached out to me the morning I learned I’d been selected, and I think that meant more to me than anything else because I learned so much from her,” Lopez said.

Warari said he was pleased, but not surprised, that Lopez had been named an All-American. “Cristina is a leader by example, a true competitor, tough as nails, unselfish on both offense and defense,” he said. “She chooses to defend the best player on the opposing team and is not focused on her individual stats.”

The coach said he often saw Lopez make a pass to a teammate when she had an opportunity to score herself. But in a game against Union College that went into overtime, Warari said, “when it mattered most, she took it all the way to lead us to victory, our first win at Union since 2003.”

Lopez said the most memorable moment of her career came in a game in which she didn’t score at all. On October 27, 2019, the team traveled to Saratoga Springs to face Liberty League rival Skidmore College. “Skidmore was undefeated at the time and we were looking forward to facing them, but it was raining so hard that we were told the game was postponed,” she recalled. “It was my birthday, so a lot of people had brought cupcakes, and when we got back on the bus to go home, we filled up on sugar.

“Then we were told the game was back on and that we’d be playing in 90 minutes,” Lopez said. “We’d already had our pre-game talk on game strategy, so instead of going over strategy again, we had a dance party in the locker room. Then we went out and played maybe our best game of the season (a 2–1 victory).”

Now that her collegiate career is over, Lopez said she plans to look for ways to stay involved in the game. “Whenever I apply for jobs, I look to see if there’s a coaching opportunity with a club team or a Division III college team nearby,” she said.

Lopez said she was glad her mother had coaxed her into playing field hockey. “And yes, Mom did come to most of my games.”