This begins an ongoing series spotlighting the Phila-area seniors who played in the fall 2016 Philafieldhockey.com Senior All-Star Game, and who will be continuing their field hockey careers in college this fall. The series features the athletes’ training, best high school hockey memories, and advise for their returning high school teammates, among other insights.
The Episcopal Academy and WC Eagles offensive phenom is also a member of the USA Field Hockey U-21 National Team and US National Indoor Team. Zanolli — a speedy and savvy offensive player with a nose for the goal — will take her talents to Stanford University, an NCAA powerhouse in the American East Conference, which advanced to NCAA regional playoffs in ’16 after a .700 season finish.
What are you up to to prepare for college hockey 2017: “Every year, my goal in the spring and summer is to step things up in my development, and go into the fall stronger, faster and better than before. This year is no exception. I will have a training packet from Stanford that I will add into my current routine. In addition to training with my club team to prepare for and compete in RCCs and hopefully NCCs, I am also participating in USAFH High Performance and playing at my USA U21 trainings.”
Are you playing spring sport at EA now? “After being a varsity lacrosse starter for the past three years, I decided not to play this season… When the track coach heard I was not playing, he asked me to join the track team. It has truly been an unexpected blessing and an amazing experience. The coaches and team embraced me enthusiastically and have been so positive and supportive of not only my track development but also my field hockey career. I found that running in a relay is a lot like being a part of a field hockey team — you have to rely on one another and give 110% in order to succeed. We have had a great season so far. I just anchored the 4×100 in the Penn Relays which was an incredible experience, and I am looking forward to the Delco, Inter-Ac and PAISSA meets to end the season.”
What do you think will be the biggest change playing in college? “The college game is much faster and requires the ability to read the field and make quick decisions. In addition, players who decide to play in college are deeply committed, enough so that they are willing to make a lot of sacrifices in order to continue playing the sport they love. It’s intense and very competitive, which makes it even more fun!”
Will your family get out to any games on the West Coast? “They will come to as many games as they can either at home or when we do an East Coast and/or Midwest road trip. My dad travels a lot for work and my brother is still in high school and plays football, so it will probably not be much different than it is now. I am very independent and have always traveled by myself on international tours and such, so my parents are good at keeping up with me from a distance when they have to!”
Who do you know on Stanford’s team now? “I’ve gotten to know several of my future teammates already through USAFH teams and events. Kelsey Bing (Texas) and I are currently teammates on the USA U-21 team and there are several current players from the Philly area at Stanford: Millie Stefanowicz (WC Eagles, Lansdale), Emma Christus (NJ), Sarah Helgeson (Lancaster), Katie Keyser (Garnet Valley), Julia Ditosto (NJ), Marissa Cicione (Havertown), Jessica Welch (NJ). There are also two other Philly area players in my recruiting class: my WC Eagles teammate Sarah Johnson (WC Eagles, Oxford HS) and Emily Surgent (NJ).
What’s you best field hockey memory? “It’s exceptionally hard to pick one moment — there are so many — but there are two that really stand out. My sophomore year, we beat rival Notre Dame in the PAISSA State Championship. We were trailing 2-0 with 15 minutes left in the game and tied the game up with a little over 1 minute left on the clock. We managed to get possession and I crossed the ball at the baseline to Angela Rocco who put it in the goal with only a few seconds left in the game. We won the State Championship 3-2 in an incredible comeback. I will never forget it that moment. In my junior year, we played AIS under the lights at EA on our EA/AIS/Haverford rivalry weekend. The entire school showed up to watch the game. It’s not that often that we draw that kind of crowd. Our team was on fire, we won 7-2 and secured the coveted rivalry banner for EA. At the end of the game, everyone stormed the field. It was electric, and I still get chills thinking about it.”
What’s your advice for your teammates who will still be in high school next year: “We graduated most of our starters in 2016 and nobody expected us to be very good this past season. Nevertheless, we defied all the odds and had a fantastic season, including making to the PAISSA finals, losing only in overtime. We did it by coming together as a team and creating a culture of inclusiveness. I have no doubt that next year’s captains will build upon that success and continue the Eockey tradition with pride!”
Anything sentimental you’ll take with you to Stanford? “Probably the most sentimental thing I will bring to college is a stuffed snowman named Squishy. My Grandma Corinne gave him to me when I was born, and he is my good luck charm. Squishy has traveled with me to every field hockey tournament and trip from Lancaster to around the world. He has been to New Zealand, China, England, Austria and Belgium, just to name a few. He would melt if I left him behind…”
What are your career aspirations; where do you see yourself in 10 years? “At age 28, I see myself still playing or involved with field hockey on some level. I aspire to continue developing as a player and hope to someday be named to the Women’s National Team and represent the USA at the Olympics.”
The steady back with a big stick and a vocal presence has been the backbone of Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s defense — a program that has advanced to Suburban One League post-season play throughout her high school career. O’Brien, also a member of WC Eagles FHC, will take her skills and steadfast focus to NCAA Division I Hofstra University, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
What will be the biggest change playing in college? “Starting over. New kids, coaches, school. Everything is different. The level of play increases as well.”
What does your training entail to prepare you for Hofstra hockey? “I’m running four times a week and going to the gym daily.”
Your fans! Will your family get out to your games? “Hofstra is about two and a half hours away. My mom, Carmen, Patrick, Memom, Poppy, Aunt Amy, Uncle Scott and cousins Kevin and Sean have plans to come watch as many games as possible.”
Do you know any of the incoming players? “I’ve made friends with the majority of the recruits in my class. Three are from PA and one plays club with me. (Two players from the Phila-area will also be returning to play this fall including: Nette Montes (Fr./D/Owen J. Roberts), Savana Malloy (Jr./D/Spring-Ford.)
What’s your advice to the returning PW field hockey players? “Have fun with with this upcoming season; enjoy the time you have left playing for PW. It goes by faster than you think.”
The superstar and All-State middie for Dock Mennoite Academy, Jill Bolton set numerous school records and joined the #PhilaFH100Club for 100+ career goals in 2016. Bolton — a three-time Bicentennial League Player of the Year — anchored Dock’s first-ever State playoff team this past fall. Bolton is also a member of Mystx FHC. She will continue her field hockey career at Liberty University, an NCAA Division I stronghold in the Big East Conference which advanced to the conference championship in ’16.
What are you doing to prepare for Liberty Field Hockey? “Right now, I’m staying up with conditioning while playing in spring tournaments like JPOL and training for RCC’s.”
You’re a multi-sport athlete, I know. What’s up this spring? “I play short stop for my high school team and so far my team has had a successful season!”
Will your fan base be able to see you in action this fall? “Liberty is 6 hours away from home, my family will try and come to as many as they can! Plus Liberty is now in the Big East so we’ll come up to Temple and Villanova!”
What’s your advice for your returning Dock teammates next year: “Have fun! Before you know it, your 4 years will be up and you’ll have to move on so soak up everything (even preseason 😉)!”
What events are you looking forward to in your final months at Dock? “Prom and Senior Speeches. At the end of our senior year we have to give a speech about our 4 years at Dock to our family and friends, and its kind of like our closing to our high school years. And of course, graduation!”
What are you most looking forward to about college other than field hockey? “I’m looking to the great Christian atmosphere at Liberty and just being able to meet new people.”
Are there sentimental things you’ll be bringing to college? “Lots of pictures of family and friends, my favorite water bottle, and lots of shoes but mostly all my sneakers.”
What’s your field hockey aspirations aside from college? “Work hard during school and remember that I am a student, then an athlete, not the other way around.”
Philafieldhockey.com will continue to follow — and periodically report on — these athletes throughout their college career. Part II will post later this week.
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