A few weeks ago, Beeston Hockey Club Ladies 1st team won the England Hockey Championship Final for the first-time in the club’s history. The narrow win (3-2) was secured through the help of three U.S. Women’s National Development Team athletes including myself (Jenny Rizzo), Carter Ayers and Jillian Wolgemuth.
If you would have asked me five years ago where I saw my life heading, I never would have said I would be in England competing for a Cup final and about to begin my second season with Beeston Hockey Club in the Ladies Premier Division. I grew up in Hershey, Pa., right down the road from Spooky Nook Sports, where I could watch and learn from some of the best field hockey players in the country. I attended Penn State University where I competed to win a 2016 Big Ten Championship while also representing the Junior U.S. Women’s National Team. My final year at Penn State I was selected for the U.S. Women’s National Development Team, and when deciding what was to come next, I knew I was not ready to be done playing. I hadn’t been selected to the senior squad but I was still keen on developing as a player. A fellow Development Team teammate, Carrie Hanks, informed me that her club and school team were looking for a goalkeeper for the upcoming season. After discussing with my family and the Development Team coaches, I decided to study for a master’s degree at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and continue playing field hockey for the local club, Beeston Hockey Club.
I arrived in England a year ago with minimal understanding of how club and university field hockey systems functioned. Growing up in the United States and throughout college, I had only known of a season lasting from August to November. The England Hockey season is scheduled each year to run from September until April: eight months of continuous field hockey with a small break at Christmas. After beginning my studies and getting acquainted with the team I began to fall in love with the culture of hockey in England. Because of the extensive season and the abundance of hockey clubs across the country, I was playing more games and getting more training than ever before. The extra game play, in terms of my development as a goalkeeper, has been and continues to be vital to my growth. Firstly, my tactical understanding of the game has grown immensely through the individual support from my coaches and the variable structures we see each week playing different clubs in the Premier League. Before the delay of England Hockey due to COVID-19, we qualified for the England Hockey Championship Final for only the second time in club history after beating University of Nottingham in penalty strokes. Although we were delayed for months, we finally played Clifton Robinson in the Cup Final for the England Hockey Championship and came out on top. I don’t think a year ago I would have expected that result, however thanks to the months of ongoing hockey matches and training I am happy to say I was part of the team which brought home the first-ever Championship trophy for the Beeston Ladies 1st team.
Never would I have thought my experience as a player would have brought me to England for two years playing top level field hockey. However, the past year has been a unique and valuable experience for my growth as a goalkeeper; winning the Cup is an exciting addition to that journey.