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Dickinson establishes herself in midfield

For most athletes, recording a hat trick is rare.

For Duke midfielder Marian Dickinson, though, the feat is becoming commonplace.

Then again, Dickinson, who has already scored three goals in a single game five times in her Duke career, is not like most athletes.

She balances the life of a varsity athlete with the difficult schedule of an engineer. She is not vocal by nature, yet has become one of the prominent leaders for the Blue Devils this year. Outside of her on-field success, Dickinson has a personality as unparalleled as her offensive firepower.

"The girl works hard off the field, on the field and in the classroom," head coach Beth Bozman said. "It's an innate part of her character. It's who she is."

Perhaps the most impressive result of Dickinson's dedication is her uncanny ability to consistently score goals.

Last year, the junior tallied 19 scores as a forward to lead Duke for the season and earn NFHCA third-team All-American honors. Three of Dickinson's five hat tricks came during that blistering sophomore campaign.

In 2007, Dickinson has continued her goal-scoring ways, even after struggling in the first half of the season. In fact, through Duke's first six games, Dickinson was held without a goal.

One of the reasons for the midfielder's diminished production was her adjustment to a new niche on the team.

"I was moved back into the midfield," Dickinson said. "We had spots to fill in the lineup. It was a huge role change from last year."

The vacancies in the lineup were a byproduct of the Blue Devils' youth, a season after losing seniors Amy Stopford, Liz Floyd, Hilary Linton and Cara Lynn-Lopresti to graduation. The decision to move Dickinson to the midfield was finalized at the beginning of this year, but Bozman believes the change has worked well because of experience Dickinson gained at the position last spring and, more importantly, her natural fit alongside fellow junior Laura Suchoski in the midfield.

But the transition was far from seamless for Dickinson. The shift required her to become more familiar with the team's defensive tactics, and the new position was more demanding in terms of on-the-field leadership.

"As a midfielder, your role is to connect the defense and the forwards," Dickinson said. "There's more distribution involved. You have to communicate a lot more, which is hard for me because I'm not very talkative."

The junior has had to overcome her shyness to help lead one of the youngest squads that Bozman has ever coached. Dickinson is one of just seven upperclassmen on this year's roster.

Dickinson's teammates, however, have seen what an inspiring leader the midfielder has become over the course of this season.

"Marian's been very helpful in improving my play," freshman Casey Beyel said. "She's always giving me great advice and leads by example. Her presence is always known on the field."

After her early-season struggles, Dickinson has exploded to lead the team with 13 goals this season. She tallied four goals in Duke's two road victories against Boston College and Boston University, and shredded Delaware for her most recent hat trick last weekend. Dickinson has scored at least once in the Blue Devils' past eight contests, seven of which have resulted in victories.

"We've started to use her position to score more," Bozman said. "She's found her groove."

In particular, Dickinson has been the designated scorer in Duke's short corner situations. The set plays have given the junior more avenues to the net.

The Blue Devils' improvement in execution combined with a change in attitude has helped Dickinson become a goal-scoring machine once more.

"At the beginning of the season, we just overall had a lot of trouble," Beyel said. "Our corners have gotten a lot smoother. I think Marian just got frustrated and said, 'I've had enough.' She's very determined."

That determination manifests itself in Dickinson's fierce work ethic. This was particularly on display last summer, when the Alberta native played with the Canadian national team. The squad traveled to South America, where it competed in the Pan-American Games in Brazil.

The time she spent with older players in the summer helped Dickinson mature on the field.

"There's a lot of experience on the [Canadian] team so it was a role reversal," Dickinson said. "I was definitely the rookie with a lot to learn. It really helped my confidence on the field as well as my knowledge."

Dickinson is not afraid of putting herself in challenging situations, whether on the field or in the classroom. For Dickinson, though, there is one thing that she feels gets lost in her attempt to balance her life as an engineer and an athlete.

"The hardest part about being an athlete engineer is that I never get to go to E-socials or the E-Ball," Dickinson said.

In one lighthearted response, Dickinson gives a glimpse at what her teammates already know.

"She's super serious, but really serious about having fun," sophomore Lauren Miller said. "She's really sarcastic but is also very understanding."

Now, with just one game left before the start of the ACC tournament, Dickinson looks to continue finding the back of the net with serious regularity to help lead the Blue Devils to another deep run in the NCAA tournament.


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