Right at home

Nick Palma

Some people dream of going to a school that’s far away from home so that they can experience a different lifestyle.

For freshman Michelle Federico, Quinnipiac University was far enough to gain that experience, though her home town of Cheshire, Conn. is only 15 minutes up the road.

“I think I’ve always had an interest in Quinnipiac,” Federico said. “I’ve always wanted to go into nursing and I knew they have a really good program. I think being so close and having the opportunity to come to such a great school is just really awesome for me.”

Aside from pursuing a nursing degree, Federico committed to Quinnipiac to play for the field hockey team. In fact, she is the first incoming Bobcat recruit to ever be named NFHCA National All-American. Her ambition is to now transfer her talent to the college level.

“I think it’s a nice award to have, but again, high school doesn’t really matter when you get into college,” Federico said. “It’s a nice thing to have in my back pocket, but I can’t really use it in college. I have to prove myself and really get out there and show what I can do.”

Federico’s coach at Cheshire High School was Eileen Gallagher, who played for Main at Quinnipiac, graduating in 2003. Gallagher told Main that she should keep an eye on one of her players, who was only in eighth grade at the time — Michelle Federico.

“Eileen said to me, ‘keep your eye on this one,’” Main said. “So I started watching her and her two year progression from eighth grade to 10th grade, we’re talking a good athlete to an elite-level division-I athlete.”

Main insists, though, that Federico’s success will be earned, and that it doesn’t matter where she’s from.

“Sometimes that can be your curse of death if the coach considers you her favorite,” Main said.

“So I’ve actually been very, very hard on Michelle to make sure everybody understands there is no favoritism here. I don’t want anyone to ever think that what she’s doing is a gift I’m giving her, but more of a gift that she already possesses.”

Even though Federico grew up around the corner, she was still in the same position as every other freshmen student athlete, which meant she had to become acquainted with a new team and new people.

“We’re a family,” Federico said. “We bond so fast. I think those first two, three weeks in preseason really bring us together and it’s just awesome to come into school and have some of your best friends right away.”

With 12 incoming freshmen on this year’s team, it benefits to have a first-year player like Federico, who is already familiar with the campus and atmosphere.

Main insists that one of the freshmen takes charge as the “chief” every year, a leader to make sure that everyone is on the same page and doing what she needs to do.

When she asked her 12 newcomers who this season’s “chief” should be, there was a clear consensus.

“Every single one of them said Michelle,” Main said. “I think that’s kind of indicative of what she’s already started to do in her class. She’s a very humble, quiet leader but there’s this fierceness about her that I know she got from working with Eileen.”

Having your family close by is never a downgrade when you play on a division-I athletic team, either.

“It was important for her to stay close to home because her parents are very instrumental in her life,” Main said. “They have been fantastic dropping her off in college but then supporting her and really supporting the rest of my freshmen.”

Many upperclassmen have helped ease the college transition for most of these young athletes during their freshman campaign. They help make the players feel at home and welcomed.

“We have three really great captains this year and they are really great leaders on and off the field,” Federico said. “I know Danielle [Allan] used to help coach at my high school and she really introduced me to the program, really made me feel welcomed.”

Ever since arriving on campus about a month ago, Federico’s objective has been to help bring home a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship for the second-straight year.

Quinnipiac is projected to win the MAAC in this year’s preseason poll, but that doesn’t bother Federico one bit.

“I think it definitely puts a target on our back,” Federico said. “People see us and they’re like ‘okay we want to go after them and beat them.’ We’re very youthful and you can kind of tell in our game style that we’re very different from where we were last year but I think we just got to keep working hard and aim to be like the team that they were last year.”