It's a small world, after all

In case you missed the memo: UNC's field hockey team is currently No. 1 in America. What, that doesn't rev your engine? Well let me tell you about a place that prides itself on the strength of its field hockey team - which is currently the strength of UNC's team as well. That place, Eastern High School, is a public school in the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia. South Jerseyans know Eastern for its field hockey team, just as they know Berlin Township for breeding Eastern's best players. Many know Berlin as home of the Dawsons, arguably the best family of American field hockey players ever. Natalie Dawson played for the USA Field Hockey Women's National Team. Now, Sarah Dawson does. And so does their sister, Rachel, who doubles as the Tar Heels' star player. In Sports Illustrated's Sept. 24 issue, she made the "Faces in the Crowd" page, which features college and high school athletes who recently excelled in their sports. When I first introduced myself to Rachel Dawson, she was a face in the crowd at a UNC basketball game. I hadn't run into her since a different basketball game that took place more than five years ago. On that day, I was the all-important 14th man on Eastern High School's freshman basketball team. My teammates and I anticipated a normal day of practice, but our coach told us to squeak our Jordans down the linoleum hallways until we reached the girls' gym. We were scrimmaging the girls varsity team, with Rachel Dawson starting in the frontcourt. One of us was a steam-powered locomotive of athleticism. The other was yours truly, making my only start of the year because my coach needed a hearty chuckle. There was nothing humorous about the girls Reddi-Whipping us - don't bring it up or I'll go back to counseling - but I take comfort in knowing that Dawson-led teams have a tendency to win. By the time Rachel enrolled at Eastern, she had large cleats to fill - her sisters helped establish the school as one of the best field hockey programs in the country. All Rachel did was never lose a game in high school field hockey. But she did experience losing at Eastern. The other teams she played for - lacrosse for two years and basketball for four all-conference seasons - paled in quality to the field hockey team. That team set a national record unbeaten streak that included Rachel's four years, and another streak - eight consecutive Group IV state titles - is still going. Moreover, Eastern has not lost to a New Jersey opponent since 1998. For this aspiring sports reporter on the Eastern Voyager staff, covering a team that never lost a game during my high school years proved difficult. I mean, what is there to write? Field hockey team wins . again. Dawson leads the Lady Vikings . again. That last bit - about Dawson leading the team in scoring - continued after Rachel left. The good thing about Berlin's most athletic family is its size - eight children. Meghan Dawson, the third-youngest, kept Eastern's state titles streak alive during her four years there and was named New Jersey Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006. Hannah and Melanie Dawson now play for Eastern as well. While Hannah is headed to Michigan, there's always a chance the youngest might follow her sister to Chapel Hill. Well, make that sisters, since Meghan accepted a field hockey scholarship to North Carolina after graduating last year. Because Rachel played with the U.S. National Team in 2006, she returned as a fifth-year senior for Meghan's freshman campaign. With two Dawsons on the roster, UNC field hockey is 11-0 and fresh off a 8-0 win against Davidson, which was the Tar Heels' sixth shutout in a row. And here I am, reporting for the school newspaper, with one Dawson leading the No. 1 field hockey team in America and another emerging onto the scene. Their next loss could be a long way off. To quote Yogi Berra: "It's deja vu all over again" for this face in the crowd. Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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