At 18, most students are just getting things figured out: graduating high school, pondering future career trajectories and wasting a little too much time on social media.

But Hannah Blake isn’t most students. At 18, the Michigan women’s soccer team forward was representing her home nation, New Zealand, in the U20 World Cup — for the second time in her career.

In 2016, Blake played for New Zealand in the Papua New Guinea U20 World Cup at just 16. In 2018, she again lined up for New Zealand in the U20 World Cup in France, where her highlight reel included an impressive goal from the far left corner of the box against the Netherlands

“It’s a surreal experience you can’t really describe,” Blake said. “It’s completely awesome being able to represent all the hard work you’ve put in.”

Blake is reaping the benefits of this hard work in more ways than one. Her stellar performances in tournaments like these were a significant factor in her being offered a significant role for Michigan last year. As a freshman, Blake started 19 of the team’s 24 games, scoring two goals and assisting three more.

Despite these impressive achievements, Blake remains humble. While she acknowledges that scoring in the World Cup was a personal achievement of significant magnitude, Blake was adamant that the disappointment of falling to the Netherlands 2-1 in that game outweighed the jubilation of scoring the goal, as the loss meant that the team was set up poorly for the rest of the tournament.

For Blake, the feeling of suiting up for New Zealand is unparalleled. But in her first year at Michigan, she experienced something entirely new.

“The amount of passion that people in the U.S. have for soccer is something that differs a lot,” Blake said. “The amount of energy that people bring makes it super exciting to play at Michigan.”

The more physical style of play in the American college game has also pushed her boundaries as a player.

“In the U.S., there’s a bigger emphasis on strength and other athletic attributes,” Blake said. “You’re in a high intensity environment all the time, which was something I had to get used to during my freshman year, but that’s definitely been a positive for me.”

Blake hopes to use her time at Michigan as a scaffold to push on to bigger career goals.

“The Women’s World Cup is in Australia and New Zealand in 2023, so I think that’s definitely the direction I’d like to work toward. Being able to represent your country in front of home fans would be amazing, and I think my time here at Michigan is going to be able to help me work toward those goals.”

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