“Catch a ship across the sea/Sail that ship all alone/Never know if I make it home.
Louie, Louie, oh baby/Me gotta go/Aye-yi-yi”
Richard Berry’s classic lyrics describe sophomore forward Lucia Belassi’s last two years. Known as “Louie” to her teammates and coaches, Belassi traveled close to 8,000 miles from Uruguay to Ann Arbor to attend classes and play for the field hockey team.
“I did not have very high expectations before I came here because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Belassi said. “In Uruguay it is difficult to both study and play sports, so I was just happy that I would be able to compete and study at the same time,” Belassi said.
Lucia grew up in Uruguay, with Spanish as her native language and little experience with anything American. As a freshman, Lucia struggled with a new language and lifestyle.
“I think last year was very challenging for her just, as it would be for any of us that went to a foreign country,” first-year coach Nancy Cox said.
But even though Belassi found it difficult to translate much of the language that swirled around her, she had little trouble reading the game she witnessed on the field.
“How she reads the game and how she plays the game is at a different perceptual level than her teammates,” Cox said. “She recognizes before she gets the ball where the next pass needs to go, and, when she gets the ball, she recognizes what she needs to do with it based on where she is on the field.”
Instead of adapting her skills to American field hockey, Belassi utilized her field hockey experience in Uruguay to her advantage. According to Belassi, field hockey in Uruguay relies heavily on the senses as opposed to American field hockey, which puts the emphasis on organized play and mechanics.
“In Uruguay, the game is much more natural, while the American game is much more tactical,” Belassi said. “Also, the game is just much faster here.”
It took time for Belassi to adjust to the speed of the game at the college level, but there was no need for her to adjust her vision.
“She sees 360 degrees of the field,” Cox said. “Her vision is exceptional; she has the best field vision of all kids we’ve ever had in our program.”
The expectations for Belassi on the field include not only her impressive vision but also her ability to elevate the play of those around her.
“She has her moments in matches where she makes a tremendous difference for us because of her ability over the ball,” Cox said. “She is very good with individual possession skills and watching the rhythm and flow of a match.”
Belassi’s coach also praised her demeanor off the field.
“She is just one of the dearest souls you will ever have on your team,” Cox said.