By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Writer
PARK - The Penn State Nittany Lions will be traveling to the Midwest for their
matchup against Northwestern on Friday.
Although field hockey is not a popular sport in the Midwest region, Penn State has landed a few Nittany Lions from the Midwest territory, including freshman Abby Myers.
In Myer's junior year of high school, she and her travel field hockey team competed in a recruiting event at the Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. Her team, from Milwaukee, was competing against New Jersey's club team. Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss, associate head coach Lisa Love and assistant coach Stuart Smith went down to the event to watch some of the girls on the New Jersey team who had already committed to Penn State.
"There was this girl, number 41, on the other team and I turn to Lisa and Stuart and ask, 'Did anyone from Wisconsin write to us?' and they said, 'No'" Morett-Curtiss said. "I said how good that number 41 was and we saw that she was a junior at that point. We were not really looking to fill the class, but when I got home and came to the office on Monday, there was an email from Abby.
"It was not planned to reach out to Penn State," Myers said. "My dad went to Penn State and my brother is now a junior. I grew up going to Penn State. I went to all the football games, volleyball games and all the sporting events. My family definitely has that bias toward Penn State, but I didn't want that to be a factor when I was picking schools and it wasn't. They never pressured me at all."
In her email to Morett-Curtiss, Myers explained that she saw the three coaches at her game and that she also had a long history of Penn State alumni in her family including her brother who was enrolled at the University during this process. At the end of the message, Myers attached her recruitment video and said that she had hoped the spots for the 2016 class were not already filled.
"When she included the video clip I remember thinking, 'Wow, she's legit,'" Morett-Curtiss said. "I knew what I saw, but it's nice to back it up with video. So, we contacted her and it just so happened that she was coming to State College that upcoming weekend for her brother's birthday. What are the chances of that?"
Right after Myers' official visit that weekend, she visited two other schools, but it did not take long for her to know she wanted to be a Nittany Lion. Within a week or two of her visit, Myers committed to Penn State.
Committing to one of the top-ranked field hockey schools in the country was never something that Myers believed was possible after growing up in an area where the game of field hockey was sparse and the competition level was low.
"There are only about nine high schools with field hockey in Wisconsin," Myers said. "It's a really small sport. It's nothing like soccer. My high school was one of the nine teams that actually had a field hockey program and we dominated. We won the State Championship two out of my four years there."
Myers had played soccer through elementary school but when she reached middle school, she wanted to try something different.
"I went to a very small middle school and they had a field hockey team," Myers said. "I played it just for something new. The team wasn't very good so it was hard to really learn the game or the fundamentals, but then I got into it more.
Going into her eighth-grade season, Myers met a man from Wales named Tom Carter who recruited her to play club field hockey for his team in Milwaukee.
"I would go every Friday night and play. That is where I really developed my skills," Myers said. "He was coaching a select team at the time and I think I met him through my parents. A group of girls from my area would go as well and we would go 45 minutes to Milwaukee to play. He played in Wales and in college. He was also on the national team."
Recruiting players from the Midwest is not common for Penn State. The former Penn State players from the Midwest area were all found through alumni connections, so for Penn State to find Abby was a rarity.
I never thought I would be coming to Penn State because they were ranked fifth in the country," Myers said. "I was one of the best in Wisconsin. There were about two other girls who went Division one in Wisconsin. Then you come here and everyone is at that standard, even high school players. It's almost a slap in the face when you come here and really need to step up your game. It's definitely a good challenge to have."
"I think, for [Myers], the challenge is that she didn't compete against a high level of kids consistently like kids from New Jersey and Pennsylvania do throughout their club and high school careers," Morett-Curtiss said. "She's come a long way in just a month where she's competing against these kids. She's more confident and less tentative."
The freshman has been working on stepping up her game since she arrived at Penn State throughtout the summer to be ready to compete at an East Coast level for the reminder of her career.
"I think that Abby brings a lot of versatility to the team," Morett-Curtiss said. "The other thing is she is a great person, a great student, she's easy going and she is feisty on the field. She's the total package."
Penn State will travel to Evanston, Illinois to take on Northwestern Friday.