USA Field Hockey NEWS Athlete Spotlight: B...

Athlete Spotlight: Brynn Zorilla

Oct. 09, 2020, 12:15 p.m. (ET)

Each athlete that wears the red, white and blue has a unique story to how their careers came to fruition. From the junior level to the senior squad, USA Field Hockey is putting national team athletes under the spotlight to share their journeys.

Sports provide life lessons on and off the field, and can often times provide experience that cannot be made in the classroom. A combination of both has helped shape U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team athlete Brynn Zorilla into the person she is today, with a bright future ahead of her athletically and career wise.

Zorilla played just about every sport one could growing up on the West Coast, including basketball, soccer, volleyball and track and field. She found field hockey through her older sister and wanting to follow in her footsteps, she picked up a stick in middle school with great excitement.

“I think each sport taught me valuable lessons about becoming the best version of myself as a person and an athlete,” said Zorilla. “But from the first time I picked up a field hockey stick, I was hooked on the sport.”

The Vista, Calif. native’s career propelled through high school, where she was heavily active as a multi-sport athlete, club competitions and extracurricular activities, in addition to field hockey at Rancho Buena Vista. Zorilla earned several honors as a Longhorn, such as Avocado East Player of the Year as a senior in 2018, first team All-League selection (x4), first team All-CIF San Diego (x2), second team All-CIF San Diego (x2) and team MVP (x2). She also excelled academically and earned AP Scholar with Distinction honors, as well as High School Sports Associaiton (HSAA) Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2018. Despite her busy school and student-athletic schedules, Zorilla was also an active participant with the RUSH field hockey club as well as the Olympic Development Pathway.

“One thing that was pretty unique was that field hockey is small in California, so I was constantly traveling with either RUSH or [Team] USA to train and compete,” continued Zorilla. “It became a joke with my friends to take guesses about where in the world I was if I missed a day of school.”

Joking aside, in reality, Zorilla became a frequently flyer over the next several years, working on school assignments at the airport, in hotel rooms and between practice sessions while conquering jet lag when training meant heading to the East Coast for the weekend. Although challenging, she admits that the consistent travel helped mold her into a more independent individual.

Zorilla was quick to note and credit the coaching staff and philosophies of RUSH played a big part in turning field hockey into her favorite sport.

“My coach, Brian Schledorn, as well as the great assistant coaches he brought in over the years have been so crucial to establishing a strong foundation and fostering my development both as a player and a person. I will always be grateful for those experiences and the continued support I feel from our RUSH Family.”

In between high school matches and RUSH, she became a recognizable body on the pitch in Futures where she competed in the 2016 AAU Junior Olympic Games. That same year Zorilla was named to the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team and went on multiple international tours through 2017 to Ireland and Germany. She was promoted to the U-19 USWNT in 2018 before her current roster spot with the U-21 squad, which most recently competed against Canada’s U-21 Women’s National Team in February at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center.

“I began my journey in the Olympic Development Pathway my freshman year of high school because I had some friends that were joining Futures and it seemed like a fun way to improve as a player over the weekends,” recalled Zorilla. “I had no idea that it could lead to so much more. I was then selected to compete at the National Futures [Championship], which my naïve self thought was the end point. I remember I was packing up my stuff to fly home to California after the tournament ended when I received a couple of texts saying 'congratulations', but I was clueless about what they were referring to.”

Through it all, finding the balance between athletics and academics was essential for Zorilla, especially when it came time to college. The University of California, Berkeley was the perfect fit as a top public school close to home and where she could compete in the NCAA, but Zorilla also wanted to be part of helping grow the game in the Golden State.

“Field hockey is much smaller on the West Coast compared to the East Coast and I wanted to be part of the movement to grow California [field] hockey, which is needed now more than ever with two of four collegiate programs in California being cut within the last two years,” said Zorilla.

She made an immediate impact for UC Berkeley and has appeared in all but two games through her first two collegiate seasons. She was also named the 2018 America East All-Rookie and is a two-time America East All-Conference selection, NFHCA Division I National Academic Squad and America East Commissioner's Honor Roll.

Now a junior, she hopes to grow the game while pursuing her degree in public health, with aspirations on the horizon to ultimately earn a decorate in physical therapy in the years to come. Again citing the sport, Zorilla credits field hockey in helping mold her into the person she is today, specifically in being able to see the bigger picture.

“That has come in many forms such as being able to prioritize my time in an effort to balance field hockey, academics and social connections as well as traveling to other countries, experiencing new cultures, and understanding how there is so much more to life than our individuals trials and tribulations,” said Zorilla. “It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day aspects of life, but I think field hockey has molded my mindset into one that is much more flexible and open to change.”

That flexibility to adapt to the unknown has been especially put to the test in the bulk of 2020 through the uncertainty of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In California, team training and games have been at a standstill as play and large gatherings have been restricted or suspended. That made this past summer uniquely challenging for countless athletes across the country, including Zorilla. To counter it and stay active, she reconnected with her coaches at RUSH and former teammates to conduct small group trainings. She also stayed in contact with her Golden Bears and Junior USWNT teammates throughout quarantine primarily over Zoom calls, which held a large amount of individual responsibility in staying conditioned and ready to return to play when the time came.

Zorilla also stayed busy throughout the pandemic by volunteering at food banks. In the spring, she organized a fundraiser for the San Francisco Food Bank, which included the work of the California field hockey team, along with the University of California, Davis and Stanford squads. She is currently back home in the San Diego area, where she continues to volunteer in a similar position.
"It is easy to get caught up in the day to day aspects of life, but I think field hockey has molded my mindset into one that is much more flexible and open to change.”

Brynn Zorilla