Talent comes naturally, but dominance is acquired.

Over the course of her first three years at Michigan, senior
midfielder Jessica Blake has embodied this principle.

Tearing through the competition in her final season on the field
hockey team, Blake has reached the pinnacle of her game.

Blake, an SNRE environmental studies major, has developed an
extraordinary ability to dictate the atmosphere on the pitch.

“I like to work outside,” Blake said. “We have
six hour labs in the School of Natural Resources and it is really
relaxing to study in a natural setting. I definitely want to pursue
a career outdoors.”

The No. 8 Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 7-3 overall) have struck gold
in the natural resource of Blake’s sparkling play.

The stats reinforce the fact she is on top of her sport.

Blake leads the Wolverines with 33 points as they approach the
midpoint of the season. She has already surpassed her career high
of 27 points that she posted during her junior year. Last
year’s marks eclipsed the combined totals from her freshman
and sophomore years, and Blake appears poised to blow past her
combined career totals again this year.

With performances like a four-goal effort against Central
Michigan on Sept. 17, this lofty milestone is not far from becoming
reality.

A native of Perth, Australia, Blake retains a charming accent
that makes her exotic origins evident. Her amiable disposition
gives no hint of her on-field dominance.

After carrying the Olympic torch in 2000 before the Sydney
Summer Olympics, Blake began her Michigan career in style, starting
16 games for the Wolverines’ 2001 National Championship team.
Her performance this season illustrates her determination to
book-end her career with another championship.

“Back in 2001, we were underdogs, but we fought until the
end,” Blake said. “It’s a different team this
year, but I feel the same fighting spirit.”

She credits the team’s early success on their dedication
to improvement over the offseason. Under the direction of trainer
Jason Cole, Blake and the Wolverines worked on their speed,
strength and agility in tandem with the women’s soccer team.
They endured grueling workouts in the oppressive heat and humidity
of a Michigan summer as they battled exhaustion with their will to
win.

“It really helped that we worked out with the
women’s soccer team,” Blake said.

“They’re really quick and added a competitive edge
to our training that made us push ourselves to the limit. We got to
see what we were made of.

“I feel we are capable of achieving more this season
because we work together so well. We can employ many different
tactical systems during games because we worked — and
continue to work — so hard together.”

When asked about the secret to her offensive explosion, Blake
has one answer:

“Experience. I am constantly learning, and my improvement
can be credited to maturity. You can’t just pick up a stick,
be an athlete and assume you can be a master of the game. It takes
a lot of patience and hard work. Understanding the nature of the
game is a credit to maturity.”

Blake has been fine-tuning her game since her arrival in Ann
Arbor.

“It was an adjustment to adapt to the American
game,” Blake said. “We play more of an attacking style
in Australia with a different lineup of forwards. There was more of
an emphasis of pushing the ball straight to the goal. I
wasn’t used to so much passing in the backfield.”

It is clear that the globe-trotting Blake has made the full
transition to the American game. Blake has played a major role in
the Wolverines’ success — they have won seven of their
last eight games — and she is currently riding a 10-game
point streak.

Her superior performance hasn’t gone unrecognized.

On Sept. 20, she was named the Big Ten Conference Player of the
Week for the first time in her career, only to be awarded the same
distinction the following week.

Individual accolades have not made Blake forget that team
success is her top priority.

With the departure of superstars April Fronzoni and Kristi
Gannon, Blake feels the team is more determined to compete for a
national title as a tightly knit unit.

Blake has stepped in as a leader as the team continues to step
up its play.

“Every game and every practice builds our
confidence,” she said.

“We are reaching the midpoint of the season right now, and
this weekend will be a turning point. Our momentum increases as the
season goes on.”

With nine games left in the regular season, the Wolverines know
they have a lot more grilling to do.

The Wolverines hope to build on their success as they battle it
out on home turf against conference rival Northwestern at 1 p.m. on
Saturday. Sunday will feature an Ivy League showdown against a very
challenging Harvard squad at 1 p.m.

Blake expects big things, and expresses the positive sentiment
of the team with a native term for awesome:

“Everything’s bonza for us right now.”

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