By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Staff Writer The Williamstown High field hockey team had eight seniors on the roster this season, which means there will be a whole lot of new faces wearing Royal blue and black next fall. Transitioning to a whole new group of athletes is never easy, but Braves coach Becky Peterson is hoping the foundation that 2024 graduate Mia Foti has helped lay down the past four years is solid enough to keep this program going in the right direction. The Braves, just two years removed from a 14-4 season that saw them reach the second round of the state playoffs, were below .500 at 8-11 this year but notched their third straight state playoff appearance and won six of their last eight games after a tough September stretch that saw them drop 7-of-8. A big reason for the late-season surge, Peterson said, was the ability of team captain Foti to hold the squad together and continue to encourage the younger girls who came into this season with less experience. Foti is one of the few girls on the roster who is a year-round field hockey player, and she brings that high level club experience to the high school season. She scored nine goals and had six assists as a senior — which may not seem all that impressive at first, until you consider she faced double- and triple-team defensive efforts from opponents nearly all year long. The Rowan University-bound senior finished her career with 35 goals, including 17 in a breakout junior season, and 23 assists. “I started playing field hockey in sixth grade. I didn’t really think it was going to be my thing; I was more of a basketball player because I’ve always been tall. But I tried it out and I was like, ‘you know what? I kind of like it.’ So then, toward the end of middle school, I started playing club field hockey. I started traveling for it and I got really into it,” said Foti, who is about six feet tall, or just shy of it. “I love playing for Williamstown. I feel like we’ve had a pretty solid team all four years I’ve been here, and I’ve always had fun with the coaching staff and everything, and the team’s always been a good team.” “Mia Foti, gosh, she has been pretty much the heart and soul of our team. She’s probably one of the best freshmen I’ve ever seen come in, ready to play, and she’s just worked so hard for all these years. I’m just so happy to see her success as a senior. I don’t know how else to say without hurting other people’s feelings, but she’s our best player. She’s the reason we get from the defensive end to our offensive circle,” Peterson said. “She has grown so much. She plays club, so she has a field hockey stick in her hand probably all year round. Those are the kids that excel now, the ones who play year round. She has put so much time and effort into it, from her freshman year til now. Not only has she grown as a player — but who she is as a teammate and as a leader has impressed me so much. She’s one of our captains and she leads with passion. She leads with love. She’s one of those players who wants to win so badly and she can take that message with excitement and passion, but without hurting other people’s feelings, being that jerk, you know. She’s just the all-around teammate and she’s actually a coach’s dream. She’s just a great girl. “She leads in a way that makes everybody feel important,” the coach added. “She does it in a way that encourages everybody to be the best player they can be, no matter what level they’re on. She’s out here encouraging them to be the best that they can be because she cares about the team, and she also wants to win.” Foti said she drew inspiration from older sister Madison, a former Williamstown lacrosse star who just finished up a solid college career at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. “Seeing her play in college, she kind of made my path. She’s been a big inspiration. I got to see how she went through everything and it’s really helped a lot,” Foti said. “Having someone like an older sister or an older sibling go through the same thing as you is really good. I’m spending my next four years at Rowan, which I’m insanely excited about. It’s very close to me, and I was looking at a few other schools, but I just feel like after I got to really view the campus, really get to know the coaches, it’s exactly where I want to go and I’m very excited to go there. I wish it could be tomorrow.” Foti said she wasn’t quite sure how she would fit into Williamstown’s program as a freshman. At that point, she had only been playing field hockey for a couple of years. “I was very nervous, as all freshmen are, but I kind of had the mentality of like, ‘OK, I want be here, I want to make a change.’ I kind of had that type of mentality, like what can I do with this program — and I believe, in a humble way, that I did have a positive change on it. Besides even skill or all that, what I do off the field also matters. I feel like all four years I’ve brought a lot of energy and positivity to the team as well, which I am proud of,” she said. “Freshman year I was nervous and a little scared of the upperclassmen, as everyone is. But I’ve started since the first day of freshman year and I honestly just had to keep proving myself. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, learned from them and I’m happy with all of those mistakes because it’s led me to where I’m at today and how I am as a player.” Her freshman year was shortened by the covid pandemic, but as a sophomore Foti showed a glimpse of what was to come. She scored six goals for a team that went 14-4 and lost to just two teams, Kingsway (three times) and Egg Harbor Township. “We had a really good record that year and it was a really fun year. Winning a lot is always great, especially with a good team and I was very close friends with all the upperclassmen, so that made it good, too, because off-the-field chemistry can lead to chemistry on the field,” Foti said. “We had a great team and it was really good just to be more comfortable with the players. I don’t think (sophomore year) was my personal best year, but I learned a lot from that. I think my junior year I kind of proved myself.” Over the course of her final two seasons, Foti scored 28 goals and led the Braves to 18 victories. “She’s like a gazelle. She will do anything, play anywhere. It’s rare to have her height at forward, but I know that I could put her at midfield and she would excel. I could even put her on defense and she would find a way,” Peterson said. “But she’s an absolute, natural-born scorer. She loves the flair. Everything she does has a flair to it. She can dribble, she can find a foot, she can get a foul when she wants. She can cut off a defender, she can reverse chip. She can literally do whatever she wants at any moment.” Foti and Peterson both said they have confidence Foti will fit in well at Rowan, but there is still plenty of work to do in order for her to be an impact player at the next level. “I feel like I just have to work for everything. I have to try to, even if there are four girls covering me, I have to go somewhere where they’re not on me. I love scoring and I love assisting, but field work is also very important and I feel like I’ve done very well with that during my senior season,” Foti said. “Keeping that up has led to other girls scoring goals and us getting on the board more. It’s all just about, how can I work through this? Last year, I didn’t have all those double teams, but this year it’s just something I have to work through. I think I did a pretty good job at that.” “She is definitely ready. Like any good high school player, you think you’re ready, but you’re never truly ready for that for that transition, just skill wise and the level you’re playing on. But she’s absolutely ready to make that jump and I know Mia is open to growing and open to being coached. I know that when she gets to that next level she’s going to be ready to just absorb. She’s that girl who wants to be the best player she can be. She’s going to be so excited to make it to the next level and she will be ready. Williamstown is still on grass but that girl is a turf player in her blood,” Peterson said. “Being a leader in high school is only going to prepare her for the next level. She’s humble and she knows at the college level she’s going to be the new kid. And she’ll be fine with that because she doesn’t have to be in the spotlight all the time. She’s going to work hard no matter what.” Having the leadership experience she gained this season will help make for a strong foundation in college, Foti said. “I would consider myself a leader in a lot of different situations, on and off the field. On the field it’s such a good role to have. I enjoy helping these girls get better, I really do. And even after I graduate and don’t play for Williamstown anymore, I still want do something, like maybe trainings one-on-one with girls who play for Williamstown. Even like stuff like that can make an effect on our team in the future. I’ve always wanted to do that type of stuff and even during the offseason, I’ve always tried to get the girls together to do something. We have a young team, and people lack confidence when they are younger and playing with older people. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of helping with that. I feel like being a leader is the type of person I am in life,” she said. “I love Williamstown. I’ve met some of my best friends here and I like my teachers. Everyone who plays sports is tight knit and that’s also fun. We’re very supportive of each other, no matter what the record is, we’re always supporting each other. I love seeing a lot of people at our games because field hockey isn’t the biggest sport, but when I’m playing and I hear all those people on the sideline, that’s always a good feeling.” Foti said one thing she wants other people to know about her is how passionate she is about helping people believe in themselves and be the best version of themselves. “I think something people should know about me is I believe I’m strong and that I want other people to know that they should be leaders, too. I feel like that’s something a lot of people in this world can be and it would help,” Foti said. “In sports or even in life, I want inspire people to be the best they can be, no matter what. When you go out on that field, give it everything you can — you’re only playing a sport for maybe an hour or two. Within that hour or two, give it everything you’ve got. What I want people to know about me is the mentality I have. We had a game against Haddon Heights and it was a pretty big upset because they are very good and we beat them in overtime, and I feel like I did a really good job of hyping the team up. “That’s why I love sports. They teach you life skills and they teach you discipline for life. They teach you responsibility and leadership. I feel like I have those things and I want to inspire other people to have leadership and discipline.” Peterson said what she’ll remember most about Foti’s time in a Braves uniform is how making people around her feel good comes so naturally to the tall, outgoing blonde forward. “She is one of the funniest players I have ever coached. She had us absolutely cracking up all the time. You never know what that girl’s going to say about her day,” Peterson said. “She is our little comedian, but I don’t even know if she tries to be funny. She’s just naturally funny. She is a leader who makes the team smile. We love being around her. We can trust her to have fun, be funny, and then when it’s ‘go’ time, she is locked down and ready to roll. She is such a good kid. She’s a great student. She’s an all-around great student-athlete and a great person.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
Sully, as he’s known throughout South Jersey, began his newspaper career in 1995 and has worked for some of New Jersey’s top papers, including The Asbury Park Press and Press of Atlantic City, as a writer and editor. He’s earned several New Jersey Press Association awards and continues to produce high quality reporting, writing and photography.
A native of Ocean County, Sully played high school baseball at Lacey Township High and college baseball at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. After a successful 15-year career in the newspaper business, Sully launched Glory Days Magazine in 2013 and for nearly a decade has been bringing fans outstanding and insightful coverage of high school sports throughout South Jersey.