As High School Career Winds Down, Maitland Demand Redefines Excellence for Southern Regional Field Hockey

By DAVID BIGGY | Oct 11, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Southern Regional senior Maitland Demand, to date, has accumulated 71 goals and 48 assists during her field hockey career, but many more aspects of her game have redefined excellence within the program.

Stafford Township — Throughout the past 20 years, the Southern Regional High School field hockey program has graduated many talented players. A few names among the best in its history include Brittany Angellella, Caitlyn Young and Madison Skeie. No doubt there are more Rams who can be considered for that list of all-time greats.

And then there’s Maitland Demand.

“I love that kid,” said coach Jenna Lombardo, herself among the best to come through the program. “She’s the most unselfish, skilled player I’ve ever had, and she’s definitely somebody who can be talked about as being one of the best to come out of this program.”

Perhaps the best. Unlike most before her, Demand has been a starter on the field since the day she entered the program in 2016 – a powerful, knowledgeable, confident presence at midfield, and a player whose number every team knows.

“Even if she didn’t score one goal, she would have had a tremendous impact on our team,” Lombardo said. “She’s never been about herself, and she does so much for our team than score goals. She gets double-teamed often. But you can double-team her all you want because she knows there are 10 other girls on the field, and she’s always ready to let somebody else step up and do the job they have to do.”

At this point in her career – she’s a senior with about a month left to it – it’s safe to say the Rams’ offense has run through her pretty much for the past four years. Sure, the team has had plenty of good players while she’s been with Lombardo. Yes, Southern has had other players who can put the ball in the goal. And certainly, the Rams have had their share of quality players who could do just about anything effectively on the field.

But not like Maitland, who not only brought an incredible field hockey pedigree with her – her mother, Jennifer, is a former Southern field hockey player and her grandmother Madeline Dutton was one of the most influential coaching icons in Ocean County field hockey history during her 40 years at Central Regional – she also brought an infectious, positive attitude and unbelievable work ethic to the program.

“Maitland’s work ethic is crazy, and she’s one of the happiest, most bubbly individuals I know,” said classmate and team co-captain Erika Barbera, who first met Demand at field hockey camp in seventh grade. “Every day, she brings so much energy, and even though we’re all tired and worn out, she doesn’t stop. Whether it’s practice or a game, she gives everything her all. And she has so much experience, she sees things we don’t see. She’s the glue of our team.”

It’s true the young woman was born to play field hockey, but she never let that awesome pedigree define her. Instead, she blazed her own path at Southern, even though she could have played for her grandmother at Central.

“When we moved to Waretown from Bayville before I went into fourth grade, I knew then that I wanted to play at Southern,” Maitland said. “Kathy Snyder was one of my Grammie’s best friends, and I had known her all my life. So when we moved into Southern’s district, I decided I was going to follow in my mom’s footsteps and play for Snyder.”

Unfortunately, Snyder unexpectedly passed away in January 2014, while Maitland was in sixth grade. But while she never had the chance to play for Snyder, her mind was set on playing in the program Snyder built.

“When she passed away, it was the worst day of my life,” Maitland said. “So it meant a lot to me to come to Southern. I wanted to come here for her. It was the best decision I’ve made.”

Of course, since then, Maitland has done nothing but become possibly the most positive and influential individual in the program’s history. Most associated with the program likely would shy away from saying that about any player, but all you have to do is watch her play the game to see how special she is.

Her stick skills, including a highly effective backhand shot, are amazing. Her field vision is stellar. Her leadership ability is off the chart. When a teammate is near the far post, Maitland often will find a way to get the ball there so it can be banged in – sometimes finishing the play hasn’t occurred, but the ball still got there. If she needs to shift around the field to create better opportunities for others, she does it.

She can block the way of an opposing player as effectively as a clever thief picks pockets. She moves the ball efficiently, knows when to hammer one toward goal, and recognizes when there’s a better option. She always knows what’s going on around her, doesn’t get down or rattled, and never stops trying to talk up or pick up her teammates.

So far, the results have been among the best in the program’s history. Heading into this week, she had accumulated 71 goals and 48 assists for her career, with 17 multiple-goal and 14 multiple-assist games. Those are big numbers in field hockey.

“I put all my time and effort into field hockey, and I can’t imagine doing anything else, because I love it. I love everything about the sport,” said Maitland, who has a cage in her backyard so she can practice at home. “Coming in as a freshman, my goal was to make the varsity team and do something for the program. Looking back, I believe I exceeded the expectations on what everybody thought I’d be as a person and player. All the extra time I put in helped me and the team. If you’re doing something and not doing it 150 percent, trying to get better, there’s no point in doing it at all.”

Her vaunted work ethic, as much as her talent, made her an attractive recruit at the NCAA Division I level. Next month, Maitland is set to officially sign her National Letter of Intent to play at Louisville University under head coach Justine Sowry. Right now, the Cardinals are the sixth-ranked team in the nation.

“After my freshman year, I didn’t have my sights on Louisville,” she said. “But I got something in the mail from Louisville my sophomore year, so I checked out the school online and fell in love with it right away. Later that year, they saw me at the National Festival and Winter Escape, and invited me to come to a camp at the school.

“A lot of people say to look around and not make a decision based on one look. But I got to Louisville for that camp, and it was amazing. One look was all it took for me. My mom thought I was crazy, but I said, ‘Mom, I want to go there and that’s what I’m doing.’ Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but when I want to do something, I go after it. So I’ve wanted to go to Louisville since my sophomore year, and that’s where I’m going.”

First, she has to finish out her sensational career at Southern.

“I never imagined everything would have turned out so great here,” she said. “Amazing doesn’t even describe what the past four years have been like. It’s been an awesome experience, and I’m really grateful for all the teammates and coaches who have helped me become the player and person I am.”

Obviously, Lombardo dreads the day Demand graduates.

“She’s an incredible leader and has been since she’s a freshman, which is rare,” Lombardo said. “I really couldn’t have asked for more in a kid than what Maitland has given to this program. We’ve been so blessed to have her. And I don’t even want to think about the fact we’re losing her after this season, because she’s been so great for this program. She’s just awesome.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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