Considered to have one of the most dangerous shooting strokes in the conference, Carlie Van Tassel, sophomore forward and midfielder for the women’s field hockey team, has dazzled on the field so far for Montclair State University and is taking the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) by storm, with 11 goals and 23 shots on goal.
Van Tassel does not want to take all the credit for the team’s success, though. As with all of the teams here at Montclair State, everything is a group effort. Van Tassel makes it clear she could not have done any of this without the other players.
“I think the team around me is what’s helping me score all of these goals; us working together is such a big thing,” Van Tassel said. “We have been working on our communication constantly during practice, and no matter what, we always stay positive.”
Some of her teammates are often in awe of her offensive abilities, such as freshman midfielder Gab Maisto.
“She has amazing touches in the circle that sometimes you say to yourself, ‘How did she even get a touch like that on the ball?'” Maisto said. “She is very good in [1 v 1 situations] and is always able to find the backboard of the goal and make it look effortless.”
How did Van Tassel get to the stage she is in today? By leading the Red Hawks game-by-game and continuously moving down the field regardless of any opponent she faces. It all started with family — another key component of Montclair State’s sports teams. While she and the team share a close bond, Van Tassel’s parents and sister are her main motivation.
“My family is everything to me. When I was looking at colleges, there were not a lot of options for me with [ice] hockey, so my mom told me to try out field hockey,” Van Tassel said. “She pushed me towards it, and I fell in love with the sport ever since I started playing.”
Yes, Van Tassel’s first foray with hockey was not even field hockey. She started playing ice hockey at a young age and even became one of the co-captains of the boys’ ice hockey team at her high school in Vernon, New Jersey. While field hockey and ice hockey both utilize sticks and share the purpose of scoring goals, these two sports are played on unique terrains and have completely different rules.
Van Tassel does not mind the shift in playstyle though. This prior experience has helped mold who she is as an athlete.
“Having different experiences and to draw from different things from over the years, and applying that at a college level has really helped me out a lot,” Van Tassel said.
The athletic ability did not just show up at Montclair State as Van Tassel was dominant on the field for her high school field hockey team as well. Her team was First Team All-Area twice, Second Team All-Area and All-Conference during her junior year, and in her senior year, reached First Team All-Conference. She was individually named NJ Herald Field Hockey Athlete of the Year and also named All-West Jersey in her final year of high school.
As Van Tassel says, high school is a completely different environment than college, but she uses it as another experience to help her continue to play well for Montclair State.
“Everyone was in class together and we saw each other all day, every day,” Van Tassel said. “Here at Montclair State, we do see each other a lot, but I feel like we have to be that much closer to each other now because we only get a few hours every day. We always have to make the most of that time and be productive in practice and team building.”
Van Tassel has already had some time as a sophomore to really develop a connection with the other women on her team, but in her freshman year at Montclair State, it was a rough time to be around anyone due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Fall sports were shut down and everyone was playing in the spring, including field hockey. But surprisingly, Van Tassel learned a lot out of making the most of the current situation at hand.
In the team’s three games last spring, Van Tassel recorded two goals and one assist, enough to be awarded the NJAC Rookie Of The Year award.
“I gained so much over that season during [COVID-19], because all my teammates and I were doing was practicing,” Van Tassel said. “For some of the projects I was doing for school, I was talking about how much extra time we had to prepare and that pushed us a lot further. It helped us when a lot of other teams were not doing anything.”
As a star player, being coachable and receptive to change is necessary to grow your game. According to Maisto, Van Tassel never shies away from it.
“If there’s something that needs to be fixed or changed, you don’t have to hesitate to go to Carlie because she’s always open to have a conversation about a situation as she’s very open-minded,” Maisto said. “I think her attitude contributes to her own success because she’s willing to do whatever it takes to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Just recently, Montclair State played at homecoming against Lebanon Valley College (LVC), which felt like a back-and-forth game the whole time. Tori Sutera, freshman forward and midfielder, scored her third goal thanks to an assist from Van Tassel. The game ultimately ended up in a 2-1 loss thanks to a goal from LVC late in the fourth period.
Van Tassel has some big shoes to fill during her next few years at Montclair State, but with the stellar performance she puts up every game, such as scoring at least one goal in her first five games of the season, the team has a bright future. And it all starts with Carlie Van Tassel leading the charge against her opponents.