In the first chapter of senior forward Rachael Mack’s Michigan legacy, she stood on Phyllis Ocker Field for the first home game of her Michigan field hockey career. It was Sept. 10, 2010. Mack looked up at the scoreboard to see the Wolverines staring at a 3-0 deficit against No. 14 James Madison. Unintimidated by this disadvantage, Mack scored her first two goals to lead Michigan to a 4-3 victory. Only one month into her career, she was a star, and this was one of the first indicators of the successful career that lay ahead for Mack.
She was born on Jan. 24, 1992 to Derek and Fiona Mack in Bromsgrove, England. Mack grew up with a passion for sports but didn’t play field hockey until the age of 11 – early compared to most Americans, but late in England.
“I played tennis when I was younger, and I always wanted to play a sport,” Mack said. “Any kind of ball I wanted to play, and I never played hockey before I went to the (Bromsgrove) school. I started at school when I actually didn’t want to play it, as I wanted to play football, soccer, instead but then I got into hockey and from minute one I really loved the game.”
Once Mack picked up the stick, she didn’t look back. Mack played for Olton high school and a club team in England’s Women’s Premier Division, among others, prior to coming to Michigan.
When Mack started to seriously consider her choices, she knew that she would somehow end up in the United States. Mack had dreamt of coming to the United States at a young age. When her father took a job working for an American company, a nine-year old Mack was afforded the opportunity to live in Texas for a summer, which just enhanced that dream.
“It was right at that age where everything in America was amazing and big so that was really fun,” Mack said. “I always wanted to come to America, whether it was for hockey or for tennis. It was something I wanted to do.”
Mack’s coach of three years at Olton, Michael Boal, gave the tip to an old coaching friend, Michigan assistant coach Ryan Langford, that Mack decided she was going to leave England for college.
“First impression was kind of a ‘wow factor’,” Langford said. “I saw this girl playing for England’s under-18 national team, and when I saw her step on the field I thought she held such a great presence, and it looked like she had an aura around her of strength and confidence and that translated directly into play. She was very talented from the first day I saw her.”
Langford knew from that point on that he needed to recruit Mack, and invited the family to visit. Like many students who tour Ann Arbor, Mack fell in love.
“We were driving up State Street, and my mum was looking around and she was just like ‘Yeah, I think you should go here, Rachael,’ ” Mack said. “Every new thing I saw, every step along the way of my visit made it more prominent in my mind that Michigan was where I wanted to be.”
While Michigan was on a road trip to Louisville, Langford received a call from the future phenom – Mack was coming to Ann Arbor.
Unlike most international players playing field hockey in America, Mack knew she was going to stay for four years. Some athletes may only stay for a year or two to work on their game and head home to play professionally.
“I wanted to get a great education, and Michigan offered that, so I did come thinking that I would stay here four years in my mind,” Mack said. “After my first year, I knew I was going to stay here because it’s awesome.”
Not only was there the added pressure of being a freshman playing James Madison in front of the home crowd, but the coach standing on the other side of the field was none other than the reason Mack wound up at Michigan – Boal.
“I scored my first two goals, and funny enough the two goals I scored were the ones me and Michael had worked on before I came here,” Mack said. “It was kind of cyclical that it would come back to that. It was really nice to have him there and be able to see my first goals even though he was the opposing coach. I told him, ‘I am sorry, but I am not really sorry.’ ”
Mack finished her freshman year with 16 goals and 36 points, and led the Wolverines to the Big Ten title. She won the Big Ten Tournament MVP award, NFCHA All-American third-team honors, All-Big Ten second team, Michigan Rookie of the Year and the Michigan athletic academic achievement award.
“I scored a lot of goals my freshman year, and my dad was like ‘You should look up the record, go see it,’ so I did,” Mack said. “He was the one that initially set my mind that you are going to break that record by the end of senior year.”
And so Mack continued to score en route to the Michigan goals record. She led the team in scoring every year after her freshman year. Mack continued to win awards each season while getting closer to achieving her objective.
It was only fitting it would finally be broken against archrival Ohio State in overtime.
Redshirt junior Lauren Hauge fed Mack the ball just outside the circle, and she carried it, spun around a defender and fired a shot to the top-right side of the net to make her mark as Michigan’s all-time leading scorer.
As an added bonus, Mack was awarded Big Ten Player of the Year and was a unanimous choice for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
In the field hockey team’s final banquet, the player who held the record before Mack, April Fronzoni, was in Ann Arbor and presented Mack her own record-breaking ball she scored against the Buckeyes. Fronzoni and Mack had been talking prior to the goal, and Fronzoni was there cheering Mack on.
“It was funny, she had scored 68 goals and I have 73 now, and she said, ‘You know I am glad that you have overran my record by five, because if it was just one then it would have been painful,” Mack said. “But now you have done it by a few more so I’m okay with that.’ ”
Now that Mack’s career as a Wolverine is over, she looks forward to the senior game, as it will be her last opportunity to represent Michigan. Once she graduates, Mack hopes to join the British national team. Having played for the junior national team before college and improving her game in the states, Mack is on the right track to achieve her goal.
And so in the final chapter of Mack’s Michigan legacy, on Nov. 3, 2013, Mack stood on Phyllis Ocker Field for the last home game of her Michigan career. The Wolverines were staring down a 3-1 deficit, just like her first home game. Mack scored the final two goals of her career, leading Michigan to a 4-3 victory and finished as the Michigan field hockey team’s all-time leading scorer.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled April Fronzoni.