With her pads on, Gab Gioffre looks like any other field hockey goalie. Heavily padded, Gioffre is athletic and, above all else, appears extremely determined to keep out anything that gets near her, whether thats a ball, a stray stick or even a marauding opponent. It's only when she takes off her pads that it becomes clear she's a little bit different: She doesn't have a left hand.
According to a column by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Lou Rabito, Gioffre was born without a left hand. Yet that hasn't held the Archbishop Wood (Penn.) senior back, primarily because she refuses to let it. The starting goalie has been a stalwart support beam for a rebuilding year at Archbishop Wood, helping the team overcome a 1-5 start to reach 4-7, 4-6 in the highly competitive Catholic League.
Yet field hockey is only one of Gioffre's athletic talents. The senior has swam competitively and is now in her second season with the field hockey program. She used to play basketball in middle school and even invented a way to let her jump rope as a kid, wrapping one end of the rope around her right arm.
"Things are more difficult sometimes for me, but I don't think that way," Gioffre told the Inquirer. "I was born without a left hand, so I had to learn how to do things without a left hand. So I'm just kind of learning, just like everyone else is learning. I just might have to do it a different way."
Her way has proven particularly successful in field hockey, thanks to natural athleticism and a whole lot of work. Her coach Deb Andress -- the former field hockey coach at Penn State Abington -- insists that with a little more seasoning, Gioffre could be a successful Division III goalie.
The 17-year-old Wood star isn't sure she's ready for the collegiate stage yet, but she isn't ruling it out as she considers schools like Temple and East Stroudsburg, either.
For the moment, Gioffre is too focused on trying to keep shots out of her goal, aiming to perfect her slight creep to the left that helps her compensate for a shorter left arm.
"Sometimes when a goal goes in on my left side," Gioffre said, "I'll kind of think, oh man, only if I had a little longer of an arm. Only. But then you can't blame yourself for that because you did your best."
Her coach said there's never any doubt that Gioffre has given everything she has.
"She acts like there's no problem," Andress told the Inquirer. "That's what I love about it."