St. Joseph High School field hockey star Emily DeMarco began thinking seriously about her college choice two years ago as a freshman. She started with 10 possibilities, got the list down to seven as a sophomore and then to three or four earlier this year.
Now it's one.
DeMarco, a junior, has committed to attend NCAA Division I American University in Washington and will receive a partial athletic scholarship that covers most expenses. She'll sign a national letter of intent next February.
The versatile midfielder was The Press Field Hockey Player of the Year last fall after leading led St. Joseph to the state Group I final and 23-2 record.
"When I was a freshman, I circled all the schools within a two-to-three-hour radius (of home), and shortened the list the last two years," said DeMarco, a 17-year-old Hammonton resident. "I've been to American University twice, and I really felt at home there. It's a big relief committing early because now I can concentrate more on my senior season at St. Joseph."
DeMarco scored an area-best 43 goals and had 29 assists last fall as St. Joseph clinched its third straight Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title. She had 10 of those goals in the Wildcats' five playoff games, including all three in a 3-0 win over Maple Shade in a state Group I semifinal. DeMarco had St. Joe's only goal in a 7-1 loss to nationally ranked Oak Knoll in the final.
DeMarco goes end to end during a game, playing offense and defense.
"I sent American University a film of the state final, and they said they liked my style of play," she said.
DeMarco also visited Fairfield (Conn.), La Salle and Saint Joseph's University, where older sister Megan, a rising junior, plays.
St. Joe also lost to Oak Knoll in the state championship game in 2010, when Megan DeMarco, then the Wildcats' leader, was The Press Female Athlete of the Fall. Megan was redshirted last fall at Saint Joseph's University and has three years of collegiate eligibility left.
"Emily has come a long way," said John DeMarco, her father and the St. Joseph High School coach since the 1996 season. "When her older sister was in front, she didn't want to interfere. The last two years she has gotten better in everything. She's a team player and well-rounded. She knows it takes more than one person. She's done everything while getting double- and triple-teamed."
American plays in the six-team Patriot League. The Eagles sought their 10th straight regular-season title in 2012 but went 4-1 in the league, losing to Lafayette College. American (10-10) lost to Lafayette 2-1 in overtime in the Patriot League tournament final. Including the two games against Lafayette, the Eagles played seven games against teams ranked in the NCAA Division I Top 25 by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association.
"They have a really tough schedule," Emily DeMarco said. "I met a lot of the girls on the team, and we got each others' phone numbers. I went to one of their practices, and saw them play one game. They had amazing passing. They were phenomenal to watch. I'm excited to do that in a little over a year."
DeMarco will major in communications and minor in media broadcasting and sports journalism.
"I went overnight there and met a lot of the students," DeMarco said. "They were so nice and welcoming. I went to a communications class with one of the field hockey players.
American is coached by Steve Jennings, who has a record of 182-94 in 15 seasons. Jennings was one of the coaches for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. He has seen DeMarco play in Florida with her club team, Spirit of USA, based in Berlin, Camden County.
"I talked to Steve a little, but he likes to talk to the athlete," John DeMarco said. "She really liked the coach."
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