Each sport has its own sites that attract emerging talent. For basketball, there is the legendary Rucker Park in Harlem. High school football, it’s Texas. for hockey? It is the Netherlands.
And that’s where Drexel coach Dennis Zielinak turned when she was looking for a new talent to hire.
After sending out high school videos and setting up FaceTime meetings with Drexel staff during the hiring process, Puk Thewessen, Amber Brouwer, Isabel Jacobs and Eline Di Leva brought the legacy of Dutch hockey to Philadelphia.
Hockey is one of the most popular sports in the Netherlands and has a very successful history. The women’s hockey team took first place in the FIFA world rankings and won the gold medal for the 11th time this year in the Olympic Games and European Hockey League.
Zielinak, in her 26th season with Drexel, said it was important to recruit from the Netherlands.
“Recruitment is crazy,” Zelinak said. “There are four to seven points in a year, which is a match if someone wants to come to school and for us personally there is someone who wants to come all four years. It’s all about finding Drexel matches.”
“It was also important that we stay in the Netherlands because of the language barrier. A little bit of a sense of home between them is important, and I think they are also more successful, comfortable and confident in each other’s presence.” “
Drexel has had seven players from the Netherlands since 2003, but they aren’t the only school in Philadelphia to recruit talent there. The town has 6 16 hockey players from the Netherlands – four in Drexel and St. Joseph (Celeste Smits, Manon van Weisel, Frick van Tilburg, Robin Blickmolen), three in Temple (Merthe Schuyelenberg, Ninke Orlemans, Tess Muller) and Ben (Liz Zandbergen and Sabine Bowman) and Frederick Wallert) and two in Villanova (Anne Darby and Sabine de Ruyter).
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In Drexel (4-8), de Leyva tied with 14 points, while Thoisen, Bauer and Jacobs finished second with nine points in Friday’s game against the Dragons against Northeastern.
Last season, Drexel finished 3-3 in team play. Young striker de Leyva led the Dragons in three attacking categories, including goals (six), assists (seven) and points (19), and was an all-new team selection.
Thiessen described the match as “family friendly” in the Netherlands.
“I think the kind of hockey they play here in America is a lot more aggressive than it is back home,” said Twissen, captain and first quarterback. “At home I played sports for fun and it is still fun here, but there are a lot of expectations and responsibilities. That pressure was scary at first, but we are all used to it now.”
When they arrived, they were surprised by the difference in hockey’s popularity in America compared to the Netherlands.
“A lot of people here don’t even know about hockey. People always ask me, ‘What are you doing, is it the same as ice hockey?’” said de Leyva. “Meanwhile, my friends and I were at home [field hockey] club all weekend.
“One day we played together, other days we went to see all the older players we look up to. The whole weekend was a hockey match.”
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Holland is club-based and has no association with hockey schools, so the American system was new to it.
“Many people who start school at home decide to stop exercising,” Tewissen says. “So it is good to play here when you go to university. In fact, hockey opens a lot of doors for colleges and universities when they are closed at home.”
Coming from a country about 2.8 times smaller than Pennsylvania was a huge cultural change. De Leyva and Breuer were able to visit the school before they decided to go to Drexel.
“It’s different for us because if you’re from America you can visit the school and I can’t,” said Jacobs, a junior CAA first-team midfielder. “But my first FaceTime conversation with the coaches, they made me feel really good and made me feel like family. I also love that it’s the city school.”
They also had to overcome the language barrier, as they had been speaking Dutch for most of their lives. While they learned English at school from the age of 12, real-life experiences helped them learn the language further.
“You learn it through music or TV shows,” Jacobs, who is very young, said. “But I had a really hard time when I came here. I was even afraid to speak, but you have to talk all the time, and it really helps. Now, in my third year, I have improved a lot.”
The presence of each other helped facilitate their transition from Holland to Drexel.
“You are in a country where you don’t speak your native language,” said young full-back and midfielder Breuer. “Of course there are a lot of people here to help us, but it can still be intimidating. If the other Dutch people here help each other. So if we have language issues or cultural differences, we know we can count on each other. “
Tessin said some international players may come for a limited time to try the United States. But Drexel Quartet has been here for a long time before she returns to the Netherlands.
“When we got here, we didn’t know what to expect, but we’re still here and we’re all planning to graduate,” said Tywison. “It takes effort not only to commit to a place for four years, but also the coaches and the team to make us feel welcome, and they’ve got that.”
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