- Courtesy of U-M Photo Services
By Steven Braid, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 1, 2011
Aline Fobe, a freshman starting back for the No. 9 Michigan field hockey team, arrived on campus in August surrounded by lofty expectations.
She played exceedingly well early during the preseason, which only heightened the anticipation of her debut as a Wolverine.
But even after showing glimpses of her enormous potential with her dazzling display before the season, Fobe thoroughly impressed her coaches and teammates during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
After an overwhelmed Michigan lost to No. 2 North Carolina in its season opener, Fobe played a vital role against No. 9 Wake Forest and was instrumental in helping the Wolverines land a tough 2-1 victory against the Demon Deacons during the first weekend of the regular season.
“She’s very effective in games,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said of the freshman. “She creates a lot of problems for other teams, which opens other players up to be able to perform well. She’s played with poise, confidence and has really stepped in to playing like a veteran already.”
While Fobe's international experience allowed her to swiftly jump to the level of play in collegiate field hockey, the talented back has had a transition to Michigan unlike most other athletes.
Most freshman athletes face a difficult challenge when they arrive on campus. Adjusting to a new home, a new school, new coaches and teammates can be a demanding task. Fobe, though, has had to familiarize herself with her new surroundings while also adapting to life in a new country.
Hailing from Aartselaar, Belgium, Fobe started competing at the national level in Belgium at age 14. She is a three-time member of the Belgium Under-18 National Team and recently captained the squad in the European Championships this past summer.
But even though she’s on a totally different continent than most of her family and friends, Fobe appears to have seamlessly acclimated to life at Michigan.
Her transition has been made a little easier by Axelle Wouters, a teammate on the Under-18 Belgium national team and a fellow first-year player.
“I’m still getting used to it,” Fobe said. “It’s different but I like it. The food is a little bit different but I like it. I’m not too difficult. Everything is going great and the girls are super. For the moment, I don’t really miss Belgium.”
Fobe admits that she still has a lot of work to do to improve her game.
While the level of field hockey is pretty similar to what she experienced in Belgium, she acknowledged that the conditioning of players in the United States is far greater and that she needs to continue to work on that every day. She expects her game will only continue to grow as a Wolverine.
“Everything is so professional,” Fobe said. “It’s different than in Belgium. I really like it here because we get good advice from our coaches and I think I’m really going to improve here.”
Pankratz recognizes her potential and understands that her time spent with the Belgium national team will only help Michigan.
“She’s the captain of her national team in Belgium, so she’s brought an awful lot of leadership to our team and maturity,” Pankratz said. “She’s got fantastic delivery skills, so she’s very good in the backfield getting the ball out of defense and breaking it out. We’ve been thrilled.”
While Pankratz has been impressed by Fobe’s play on the field, she’s not as surprised with the great adjustment Fobe has done to life off the field.
“When we’re recruiting athletes, we’re trying to pick kids that are a great fit for Michigan,” Pankratz said. “We want kids that are going to be players that want to be leaders and the best and want to be outside their comfort zone and go to a place that’s going to challenge them.
“She’s a great student, so she’s not going to have any issues at all in the classroom. We foresee her having an awesome career and she’s fit in great.”