October 3, 2008

Martinez: A Rare Two-Time Captain

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When the women’s field hockey team defeated Princeton last year for the first time since 1990, you wouldn’t have found its junior co-captain celebrating with the entire squad for long. Instead, Belen Martinez could be found shedding tears of joy while relaying the good news to her parents on the phone. For Martinez, the sport of field hockey is much more than a hobby, it is part of her identity.
Originally from Argentina, where the sport is hugely popular, Martinez was born with field hockey in her genes. Her father was a goaltender for Argentina at the Junior Pan-Am games years ago. She began playing for a club team at age six, but her career slowed down when her family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, at age 11. Whereas field hockey dominates the youth team sports scene in South America, ice hockey reigns supreme up north. Martinez found herself playing with girls as much as 10-years her senior on the Manitoba provincial team, a system that lacked structure.
As luck would have it, though, Martinez was discovered by Josette Babineau, the current head coach at Maine and former assistant at Cornell. Babineau recruited and brought the young star to Cornell, where Martinez has flourished.
“I’m so happy I came to Cornell for field hockey,” Martinez said. “Coming to practice every day, feeling part of a team, working within a structure and putting emphasis and time into rewards is something that lacked in Canada. We only went to two tournaments a year there.”
During her three-plus years here, it would be an understatement to say that Martinez has made an important impact, being named to the All-Ivy team her first three years. But perhaps most importantly, the team has twice voted her team captain.
“It’s so unusual to be captain twice,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook, “Yet it speaks very highly of her. … But her intensity, focus and encouragement toward teammates made her very deserving. I knew we had a special player right from Day 1.”