The Germanic Influence

Four Germans playing key role in UVM field hockey’s historic start
Four Germans playing key role in UVM field hockey’s historic start
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 10:25 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - College field hockey has always been a very international sport.

“I always wanted to combine my sport with my educational path,” said sophomore forward Alina Gerke. “That’s why I wanted to come to the U.S.”

“I saw the opportunity to go to the U.S. from another teammate,” added freshman forward Sophia Lefranc. “I really love the idea.”

But it’s rare for so many players from one country to join the same team.

“I was, I think the first German who committed on the team,” said sophomore midfielder Sophia Drees. “Which in the beginning I was actually pretty excited about.”

“I don’t know how it would’ve been without them because I’ve only like been here with them, but I think that it was very helpful,” said freshman defender Lili Schuh.

The Cats have five internationals on this year’s roster, four of whom come from Germany.

“It’s interesting, you know. There wasn’t a whole lot of intention with ending up with four,” said UVM head coach Kate Pfeifer. “But through trips that I’ve taken over there and a showcase that I was at, I was able to connect with two of the agents and then once you kind of create a pipeline, you end up just getting more.”

That pipeline has paid off big time so far for Vermont this year. Drees, Geke, and Lefranc are three of the Cats’ top four scores this fall. Add in Schuh and you have a formidable German quartet.

“Traditionally the Germans play with a really strong platform,” Pfeifer said. “Out of the backfield, they just have a lot of structure and specific passing patterns.”

“The college sport is more offensive and faster, more dynamic maybe,” added Schuh.

It’s always tough to move to a new place, especially when it’s a new country with a different culture in a different language.

“I feel like it’s normal to be homesick at times,” Drees said. “Sometimes it’s hard to like communicate at home, especially because of the time difference.”

But the German Cats say having so many of them here has made the transition easier.

“In the beginning, It is hard to know every word or everything,” Lefranc said. “It’s a good help to have someone you can just ask for some German words, how to say them in English.”

“My first intention wasn’t speaking German here, but I got very close with the other German players,” added Gerke.

“Actually at the beginning, Lina and I, we didn’t really talk as much,” Drees said. “We were both wanting to experience the American life. But yeah, it turns out we are like really good friends now.”

They do what they can to share their culture with their mostly American teammates.

“We taught them like one card game from Germany,” Schuh said. “And one girl on the team, Eileen, she asked us to come over to her house to cook a German meal for her.”

“We share a lot of German music sometimes,” Lefranc added. “They don’t understand it, but they say they like the music.”

But the biggest thing that’s helping them build relationships is the success on the field. And that works both ways.

“I think we were able to play as a team,” Gerke said. “I think that’s the biggest part and we kind of got used to each other.”

“We just really worked on having a really good connection on the team,” Drees said. “We were really open about communication, which I think is the reason why we had such a good start this season.”

At 8-1, UVM is off to its best start in school history. They’ll try to extend their program-record win streak to nine Friday afternoon at Albany.