Georgia Cassidy is an athlete on a mission: Help take the Colby College field hockey team back to the top of the Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference, known as the NESCAC. And the former Darien High School standout may just be the player who can make it happen.

“We are doing pretty well,” Cassidy said of the Mules, who are currently ranked eighth in the conference. “We just got our first NESCAC win against Connecticut College. Our team goal this year is to make the NESCAC tournament, which Colby hasn’t made in several years.”

The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the tournament, which is scheduled to begin October 27.

If the Mules succeed, it will be with significant help from Cassidy. Originally enrolling at the University of North Carolina and playing for the Division I Tar Heels, Cassidy transferred to Colby after being redshirted her freshman year.

“I was looking at NESCACs when I was in high school, and then was kind of randomly recruited by UNC at a summer camp,” Cassidy said. “When I got there halfway through the year, though, I realized that I wanted to transfer."

Once at Colby, the former Wave captain and Hearst Media Connecticut Player of the Year made an immediate impact. Starting every game in her first season last fall, she led the Mules with a record 15 goals (6th best in the NESCAC), as well as led the team in game-winning goals (3) and points (33), as well as tying for first in assists (3).

This year, playing at forward, she has already racked up five goals and seven assists in her first eight games. The Mules are now 4-4, with a 1-4 record in the NESCAC. Still to come are challenges from Bowdoin, Amherst, Hamilton and Bates.

“They’re all big games,” Cassidy said.

Helping Cassidy potentially reach the tournament this year is her younger sister, Sally, who joined the Mules this fall as a varsity starter after graduating from DHS last spring.

“We’ve been playing on the right side together, which has been really fun,” Cassidy said. “She’s been doing really well, she’s starting and playing the whole game.”

The sister duo joins what has become a trend of former Darien standouts in the NESCAC.  Currently, in addition to both Cassidys, former Wave players in the conference include Marissa Baker at Middlebury; Meaghan Waldron at Bates; Laura Schwartzman and Courtney Lowe at Amherst; and Olivia Hoyda at Trinity. In addition, Darien resident Emma Stevens, who played for Westminster School, is at Bowdoin.

Cassidy said one appeal of the NESCAC is the flexibility of the athletic schedule. Unlike Division I schools, NESCAC coaches are only allowed to coach during the season. In the off-season, players run their own practices and workouts; many play a second sport, or study abroad.  Cassidy, who is currently a junior majoring in psychology with a minor in English, said that the flexibility of Division III has allowed her to more fully enjoy life as a college student.

“I think you can find the perfect balance between playing a sport and doing a lot of things outside of your sport like clubs, and meeting tons of different types of people,” Cassidy said. “So, I'm definitely a big supporter of NESCAC athletics and Division III.”