Lacey Pustizzi has been all around the world, flying or driving thousands of miles to and from one country or another.
But she feels most comfortable grounded, in front of a space 12 feet wide by 7 feet high. Those are the dimensions of a field hockey net, which she guards with her life. And much of her life is defined by those 84 square feet.
Over the next week, the 43-year-old Hingham native will try to backstop Team USA to a Masters World Cup championship for women 40 and older.
“We all get a chance to represent our country in our age group,” she said.
The amateur tournament in Nottingham, England, begins Friday and runs through Aug. 21. The US will join 12 other nations in vying for the world championship.
Pustizzi sees Argentina and the host Brits as posing the biggest challenges, although she wouldn’t be surprised by any entrant — the Americans included — that ends up atop the podium.
“It’s in England, so usually when a World Cup is in your home country, you’ll get a bigger pool of athletes because there’s less travel, so I believe England is going to be pretty strong,” Pustizzi said. “And Argentina is always really, really strong.”
Also competing will be Chile, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Spain, and Wales.
A graduate of Hingham High School (Class of 1998) and Division 3 Hartwick College (2002) in Oneonta, N.Y., Pustizzi has been a goalkeeper ever since a memorable moment in 1994 as a 15-year-old when she answered the call of the freshman team’s coach on Day 1 of practice.
“I don’t know how or why I decided at that moment to do it,” she mused, “but the coach said, ‘We need a goalie. Does anyone want to try it?’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ And I never turned back.
“I absolutely 100 percent love the position. I love everything I get to do in it. I love the equipment; nothing feels better than putting my pads on. I love the mentality.
“In other sports, I typically don’t like to play goalkeeper, but in field hockey, if you come up with something big, you’re a hero. It’s amazing. It feels so good.”
It’s common to be thought of as “a little bit crazy” to be a goalkeeper, no matter if it’s in field hockey, ice hockey, soccer, or lacrosse.
“You have to be a little crazy,” said University of Delaware coach Rolf van de Kerkhof, a goalie during his playing days and a close friend of Pustizzi since they met while on recruiting trips for their respective colleges.
“You’re facing shots coming at you 50, 60, maybe 70 miles per hour, and those balls can hurt people. You make a save and you’ve got the bruises to show for it.”
Van de Kerkhof admires the passion Pustizzi brings to field hockey, as well as her skill in the cage.
“She looks her opponent in the eye,” he said, “and she’s thinking, ‘Are you going to score on me, or am I going to deny you?’ She doesn’t even blink.”
Aside from her playing in high school and college — she is a member of the Hingham High Athletic Hall of Fame — Pustizzi has donned the pads in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, and Greece. While the US has no professional field hockey leagues, she has been paid to play in Switzerland.
Having coached at various camps and clinics, Pustizzi also has served on the staffs of several colleges, including Boston University, as a goalkeeping specialist.
She was a founding member of the North East Premier League, and was a guiding force in the formation of the South Shore Field Hockey Club, which gives youths of all backgrounds “something to look forward to,” Pustizzi said, playing on fields in Weymouth, Hingham, Duxbury, and other south-of-Boston communities.
She has held many jobs through the years while maintaining her hold on field hockey. Currently she works as a land surveyor for an engineering firm.
Team USA’s other 40-and-older goalie, Staci Smith of Liberty, Maine, is a state trooper and one of Pustizzi’s best friends. Lacey and Staci. They hang together, train together, and will room together in England.
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t bust each other’s chops. Said Lacey, “We talk trash over who’s going to get the starting job.”
Be assured that whoever is the one sitting will be pulling hard for the one starting.
. . .
A 35-and-older women’s team (including Lauren Sertich of East Walpole as the roster’s lone Massachusetts player) and a 40-and-older men’s squad (with goalkeeper David Eddie of Somerville representing the Bay State) also will compete in Nottingham.