Phila-area field hockey star, Hannah Nihill hit the 100-mark for career goals this fall as a senior at Cardinal O’Hara. The nimble forward was instrumental in the Lady Lion’s Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) Championship title for three of her four years. She closed out the 2016 season with 103 goals – a school record – and as a two-time All-Catholic League First Team honoree. Nihill’s impact on the perennial powerhouse O’Hara team was undeniable; she was critical in transition and deadly in the circle.
But… Nihill’s talents don’t stop at the hockey field.
The Drexel-bound basketball player, 2015-2016 Delco Player of the Year, and McDonalds All-American nominee joined the illustrious 1000-point club last week, netting the milestone on Senior Night. Nihill is the only active Phila-area high school athlete to accomplish a 100-goal field hockey career and 1000-point basketball career – and likely the only one in recent history or ever.
Despite Nihill’s field hockey success and love of the game, it is basketball that takes center court for her.
“Basketball has always been my top sport. Ever since I was little I’ve always loved playing the game. I started focusing on basketball when I was in 4th grade and made the 9- year old Comets team. That’s when I knew that this sport was something I wanted to work for and get better at. The most exciting part about playing the game is seeing everything I’ve worked for pay off, and seeing my teammates compete as best as they can, giving it 110% effort every game in order to win.”
The O’Hara Lions are on track to advance to the PCL playoffs and have their eye on the PIAA State Championship – a repeat from last year.
“My greatest basketball moments at O’Hara was the run for the state championship last year. Each game was exciting and a nail-biter. Making it to Hershey was so much fun and having the support from my school made it ten times better. Traveling to Florida my sophomore year and to Phoenix this year to play in the Nike tournament against the best teams in the nation was an unforgettable experience. I’ve made so many great memories with my team.”
Nihill has accumulated some pretty terrific moments with the field hockey team over the years that will keep her fueled since her hockey days are now over. In particular, her memories of winning back-to-back PCL crowns won’t fade.
“Being a senior and beating Carroll after losing to them at home in the regular season and winning the (PCL) plaque again was the greatest moment ever. We didn’t call it revenge, but redemption. All season long we played as a team, picked each other up every game, and we all had the mentality to “Refuse to Lose” and that won us the championship.”
In reflecting on the 100-goal and 1000-point milestones, Nihill remains humble and attributes much of her success to her teammates and her drive to win for the teams.
“My 100th goal was something I did not expect at all because I didn’t play on varsity my freshman year so I didn’t think it was even possible. We played Ryan (10/28/16) in the first round of playoffs at O’Hara and I hadn’t played or practiced all week because I got sick, so I just played how I normally would. I specifically remember my teammate, Molly Grady who told me ‘Omg Han, that was your 100th goal!’ I seriously thought she was kidding so I said, ‘Good one! No it’s not.’ Then that’s when the rest of the team was telling me it really was my 100th goal. It felt good because I wasn’t expecting it but at the end of the day, all that really matters is the win. All I really care about is winning, so after I was appreciative to my teammates and coaches for everything they have done for me. But really, I was more focused on winning the Catholic League at the time, more than anything, and that’s what we did.”
With Nihill’s 1000th point in basketball on the horizon, friends and teachers were hyping up the big game when she’d make history, but Nihill remained focused on her team. That night, her teammates fed her the ball and her coach, Mr. McGinty called plays to set her up “It was just an amazing feeling. Without my teammates, getting 1,000 wouldn’t be possible. Nothing worth celebrating is possible without your team.”
No doubt, Nihill plays for her team. But more so, she plays for her sister, Sydney, who is battling leukemia.
“My little sister is my inspiration; she is the strongest person I know and everything I did on the hockey field was for her and everything I’m doing now on the basketball court is all for her. I have so many other people who have inspired me over these last four years, and another one of them is Marie Murphy, my hockey coach. She puts so much time into the program and to all of us. I’m forever grateful to her because O’Hara field hockey would not be the same without her. She has taught me so, so many things, not only in field hockey but in life.”
“It’s going to be extremely hard giving up field hockey. I miss it every day. I keep my field hockey stick in the back of my car always, in case anyone wants to go down to the turf and just pass around or anything. The sport was just so much fun. Coming to preseason as a freshman I didn’t even know what a dodge was, or how to even dribble really, and my coaches taught me so much about the game that I won’t ever forget. My teammates, especially the 11 seniors, are my sisters and role models. They will forever be my friends.”
Nihill’s commitment to Drexel basketball was an easy one. “I committed to Drexel in July, the summer going into my junior year. It was not a hard decision to make, I knew I wanted to go there from the beginning. I picked it because it’s close to home, I like the conference they play in, the coaches are awesome, good academics, and I like the city atmosphere. My coaches helped me immensely with my decision. Only two hours later (after the scholarship offer), I called and accepted; I knew it was the school for me.”
Playing both sports throughout middle and high school, Nihill says, was integral in her success on the court.
“Field hockey helped my basketball game because of all the running we did. Pre-season we just run, and run, and run. It helped me to get in shape and stay in shape for when basketball season rolls around. I also realized (freshman year), that it was nice having a break from playing basketball. I play all winter and all summer long and so it was good for me to get a little change. It all worth it. Everything was definitely worth it. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t play field hockey.”
“I would encourage others to play multiple sports in high school; I would say do as much as you possibly can. My field hockey coach Marie was very helpful the whole 4 years; she understood that basketball was my first sport, and Mr. McGinty thought it was great that I was playing as well; he came to most of my games. Also, you get to be a part of two completely different teams, with all different people. It was awesome making so many new friends on both teams that I’ll have forever. The memories made with both teams are ones I’ll cherish the most.”
When Nihill reflects on her time with O’Hara field hockey, she babbles. She can’t say enough. She recounts the video the team shot every game all season, the bus rides, senior night – the usual things high school hockey players cherish – but for Nihill, it’ been more.
“When I think of Cardinal O’Hara field hockey, it was the best time of my life, and I would do anything to go back and do it all again with my team.”
By scoring 100 goals and 1000 points, it’s easy to say that Nihill’s athletic career has been nothing short of incredible, attained through really hard work, dedication, and supreme athletic talent. She’s left her mark in the record books of Phila-area high school sports attained by only the true elite. And even more, she’s left a mark in the hearts of her field hockey and basketball teammates and coaches whom she’s impacted well beyond stats.
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