“Don’t watch,” assistant field hockey coach Lucia White mutters under her breath on the sidelines while observing a complicated drill, willing her team to stop hanging back and engage in the play.
Freshmen Sina Lampe, Eliza Stein and Courtney Enge aren’t watching. Out of the eight freshmen on the field hockey team this year, only these three have seen any playing time. The rest are redshirts.
These three have been thrust onto the pitch of college field hockey and they have gladly jumped in without a second thought.
“In Germany, we don’t have high-school sports we only have club,” Lampe said, “So, I’m really proud to play.”
But the transition to Michigan hasn’t been entirely smooth for Lampe. As a Bergisch Gladbach, Germany native moving across the Atlantic for college, the trials that plague any freshman athlete are increased tenfold.
On the pitch, Lampe had to get used to an entirely different style of play.
“In Germany we practice so much on our skills,” She said. “Here we are just running and running and running and fighting and fighting.” she said.
Lampe’s first taste of the new emphasis on physicality and conditioning came in the first week of fall practice: running tests. Freshmen were the first to take on the challenge of running laps around the track. It was a shock for a player who had never been forced to run lines or even do the beep test in high school. But the upperclassmen surrounded the track cheering on their new teammates, giving them support and helping Lampe finish the conditioning.
Still Lampe’s struggles didn’t end at practice.
“I was really homesick,” Lampe said. “And that showed on the field.”
The Wolverines’ roster has five girls who are from overseas. There are players who know what she is going through and came to her with help.
Senior captain Rachael Mack is one of those international players. In fact, Lampe lived with Mack during summer school and the two became close, to the point where Lampe considers Mack an older sister. Mack, a Bromsgrove, England native, understands the difficulties of living in a different country.
“When I think of Sina, I think of how she doesn’t understand,” Mack said. “Her English wasn’t her best (at the beginning), and it’s really hard being away from home, but she has bonded with the other freshmen and has really settled in.”
While Lampe might have to adjust to life in Michigan, Stein feels right at home here in Ann Arbor, where she grew up. Playing for her local college wasn’t so much a perk but a necessity.
“I have always been a huge Michigan fan and worn the Michigan clothes but I’ve never actually owned what I’m wearing,” she said. “It’s really cool to be playing for somewhere that you have been connected to your entire life but only as a fan. Now your part of it and wearing the block ‘M’ yourself.”
Stein tallied her first collegiate goal in mid-September, and the boost in confidence has also amplified her hunger for more.
Out of the three freshman Enge is the only one who hasn’t scored her first goal yet, but as the only freshman who has played in every game this year her time is bound to come and soon if Enge has anything to do with it.
“I kind of feel like it’s my time to shine,” she said. “It’s my time to show what I came up here to do,” she said.
As a San Diego native, field hockey wasn’t an obvious choice for Enge. No colleges in Southern California even offer teams. She started with soccer. She made the varsity soccer team in high school but changed to field hockey in the middle for the challenge.
“I was interested in switching from using my feet to using a stick,” Enge said. “I liked the fast pace of the game.”
Enge likes trying new things, which worked out well since she was going to have to leave Southern California in order to play college field hockey. She could have traveled only a few hundred miles to Northern California, but Enge decided it was better for her to branch out and experience something different.
“Courtney is the weirdest, craziest, most awesome person I have ever met,” Mack said.
And that attitude seems pretty on par for this field hockey team. The girls line up for a final shot on goal, and someone turns on Destiny’s Child over the loudspeaker. The chorus of “Bootylicious” fills the Midwest dusk. Lampe and Stein, unable to control themselves, start to dance, swinging their sticks to the music. Enge watches and laughs behind them. The sun sets over the scoreboard, indicating the end of another practice. The team starts to walk off, leaving the three freshmen dancing on the field.