Jack of all trades: Even as a sophomore, Stephens is shining as a multi-sport athlete at West Forsyth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2023

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By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

It’s been a tough season so far for the West Forsyth field hockey team, but through it all one of the rays of sunshine has been sophomore Reese Stephens.

Through this Monday’s road game at Reagan, West Forsyth is 0-7 and has been outscored 21-0 with just this past Wednesday’s scheduled home game against Greensboro Grimsley to play the rest of the week. 

The results are obviously not what the Titans wanted, but even as a sophomore, Stephens, who grew up in Clemson, S.C. before moving to Clemmons when she was in the sixth grade, has shown leadership on and off the field. Not only that, Stephens, who is 15, is a throwback in that she plays three sports — varsity field hockey, JV basketball and varsity lacrosse. She also competed in gymnastics when she was younger.

“I enjoy being out in the field,” Stephens said. “And I defense (in lacrosse), so that’s my strong suit. So, I guess I enjoy doing that.”

Although lacrosse, which she started playing first, is similar to field hockey, they’re completely different sports. 

“When I started high school, I was like, ‘Oh, I need a fall sport to play,’” Stephens said. “And my mom brought up field hockey, and I had never heard of it. So, I went to a little Fusion (club team) boot camp just to learn the game and I actually ended up enjoying it, so my freshman year I ended up starting center-midfield and being a captain.”

Although field hockey was foreign to Stephens, she felt like she knew the sport. 

“It kind of helped me defense and kind of understanding where to go and everything like that,” she said. 

Both sports use a stick, but you want to keep the ball in the air and catch it in lacrosse, and you want to keep the ball on the ground in field hockey. 

“It’s a lot different since in lacrosse you use your left hand and with your right hand you like switch,” Stephens said. “But in field hockey you just kind of stay with you right hand, so I found that a like challenging toi kind of get used to, but it ended up coming to me pretty easily.”

Stephens’ coach at West Forsyth, Ann Marie Westmoreland, played college field hockey at Appalachian State.

“I think a lot of the field hockey girls who play lacrosse have a tendency to bring their stick higher than what is allowed,” Westmoreland said. “So, and lacrosse is right before field hockey (season), so they’re going from lacrosse right into field hockey, especially if they play summer ball.

“So, I think it has its pros and cons, but definitely more pros than cons because they’re running the field, they have to make sure they’re not hitting the girls with the sticks, I don’t know 100 percent on lacrosse rules. For the most part, they are very similar, and I do think that helps in a field-hockey player.”

Westmoreland is also a big advocate for young people to play multiple sports. She played softball and field hockey growing up.

“I think playing multiple sports makes you a more well-rounded athlete,” she said. “You know, playing basketball, it’s a lot to do with your hands and not as much running only because the court is smaller. There’s a lot of running in field hockey and lacrosse for Reese specifically. So, I think she can carry a lot of her athletic abilities from basketball and then into lacrosse and field hockey as well.”

Stephens’ stick skills have been evident in both field hockey and lacrosse.

“(Her stick skills) are very good,” Westmoreland said. “I think if she continues to practice, obviously they will get better. She is definitely one to give 110 percent and even when she is tired, it’s still she’s giving her all.”

Her all-out play funnels to the other players for the Titans. 

“I would say I’m an aggressive hustler. I think it’s pretty to go against opponents when you can kind of like figure out how they play and everything,” Stephens said. “That’s the same position I played last year, so I was kind of already used to it. And I would watch Yasmine (Paige). She was a senior last year and she played center-midfield, as well. So, I kind of learned from her, as well, and that helped a lot.”

Stephens played JV field hockey for the Titans last season.

“I think my stick skills have gotten better,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten a better grasp of the game and learning all the rules because last year I wasn’t sure really all of what all the rules weren’t called because it was at the JV level. So, I think I’ve learned the game and kind of how to play it better.”

Stephens and her current teammates for the Titans have had to grow up quickly. They lost eight players from a team last year that finished 7-9 overall and were outscored 33-20.

“It’s been hard because that was basically like three-fourths of our starting lineup,” Stephens said. “So, we kind of had to figure out who can do what and who’s the best at what. The people have had to adjust to like what they do, I guess in a way. Like if you played this position, oh, there’s already a senior doing that, so you’ll have to play something else. 

“A lot of people have had to adjust, but I really haven’t had to do that since I played last year.”

Westmoreland has seen perfect player for the part of leader, albeit just a sophomore.

“When I first met her, she was a freshman, and she has all the athleticism that I look for in a player,” Westmoreland said. “She’s respectful, she’s good in the classroom, on and off the field, I can just see the athleticism that she carries in herself. And then I think most of the girls respect her as a player as well. 

“And you know if they have any questions or issues or whatever they, I would think would be able to go up to her and ask her questions and she would respect them and would be able to answer the questions and move on. I think she has a lot of friendships that go from different sports…I think if you came to one game, you’d just see an amazing athlete, just all-around and really just an amazing girl.”

Stephens’ leadership and personality has been needed through the early part of the season since the Titans have been held without a goal through the first seven games.

“I think once we have more confidence it’ll come to us, and once we honestly get out of our heads, I think it will be better,” she said. “And I think once we get one goal we’ll just keep going from there.”

Once field hockey season is over, Stephens will play basketball, and then she’ll play lacrosse in the spring. She also has two more years of being able to play field hockey after this season.

“She could, if she really sticks with it, I think she could potentially, if she wanted to, potentially play beyond high school, I think she could really become a really good field hockey player,” Westmoreland said. “I mean she just tries really hard. Like I said, she’s not one to give up.”

But for right now, just a sophomore, Stephens is content playing three sports at West Forsyth, being a teenager, going to football games, and rooting for her beloved Clemson Tigers.

“(Sports) kind of makes me identify with who I am, I think,” she said. “Sports are a big part of my life. So, they just mean a lot to me because I’ve just done them for so long. And my family’s very athletic, so it’s just great to carry on the legacy, especially with my number — No. 44.

“It was my mom’s number, my uncle’s number. Like a lot of people in my family had it, so it’s great to just like carry on the legacy.”