FEATURE: Bonenberger, Hoffsmith finish stellar careers at Penn State
Nov. 15, 2009
This feature story appeared in the Friday, November 13 issue of The Patriot News.
By JAMES PHILLIPS, The Patriot-News
At a young age, Brooke Hoffsmith used to think field hockey was a strange sport.
By the time she was ready to play anything other than soccer and basketball, however, she turned the one sport she once deemed, well, weird. Hoffsmith actually was exposed to field hockey by her older sister, Erica, and her best friend since third grade, Amy Bonenberger. Big sister went on to Penn State University, and Hoffsmith and Bonenberger followed her to Happy Valley after helping lead Palmyra High School to the PIAA Class AA title in 2005.
"Actually, Amy played the sport before I did because I used to make fun of it," recalled Hoffsmith. "My dad [Jerry] and I used to laugh because there were too many whistles blown in the games."
Once Hoffsmith and Bonenberger arrived at Penn State, the roommates formed a dynamic duo that made an impact from the very start. They both saw action off the bench as freshmen and gained valuable experience.
"I'm extremely blessed that Brooke came to Penn State," Bonenberger said.
The big year for them came as sophomores when the Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA Division I national title game where they dropped a 3-0 decision to unbeaten North Carolina. Bonenberger (left back) started 20 of 24 games, while Hoffsmith (back/midfielder) started 18 of 24 contests That season, PSU led the Big Ten with nine shutouts.
"We didn't have an incredible regular season [went 16-8], but we peaked at the right time," Bonenberger said. "It was an outstanding journey to get there ... we knew that we belonged and we showed everybody that we belonged."
Bonenberger was a two-time All-Big Ten Tournament selection, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten pick and a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and NFHCA National Academic team selection.
Hoffsmith was a Big Ten All-Tournament team and NFHCA All-Midwest Region second-team selection last year. As seniors, Bonenberger and Hoffsmith finished tied with the team lead in defensive saves (3). Bonenberger registered eight points (fifth on the team) and four assists (ranked second). Her career-high 23 shots and 19 shots on goal are fourth all-time.
Last season, the Nittany Lions captured the Big Ten regular-season championship, their fifth under 23-year coach Charlene Morett. The team fell to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament and dropped a 2-0 decision to Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
This year, PSU ended a disappointing 7-13 campaign following a 3-1 setback against No. 18 Indiana in the Big Ten semifinals. The team did manage to record victories over three ranked teams (including Stanford), two against Ohio State and became only the second No. 7 seed in Big Ten history to win a tournament game.
"You can't attribute our season to just one thing," said Bonenberger, who's majoring in kinesiology. "We had some big shoes to fill and we couldn't fill some roles."
Hoffsmith, who is majoring in recreation parks and tourism management, added, "Some of the sophomores were still trying to adjust to everything like the college playing level. We did also lost a lot of key players."
Whatever the case, Penn State will reload with a solid recruiting class by Morett, who has 399 career victories. The longtime coach was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year four times and has led PSU to 20 NCAA tournament berths.
"I was fortunate to get both of them [Bonenberger and Hoffsmith] four years ago," Morett said.
"They have two different personalities ... Amy is a vocal leader and Brooke is quiet. Amy could transfer from defense to offense and create the attack, while Brooke was fundamentally sound and was a distributor on the field. Both players also had the highest GPA awarded at Penn State. We're going to miss everything about them in our program."