By Evelyn Gray
Harvard Sophomore Chosen for South African Field Hockey Squad
A Conversation with Hannah Pearce about her Field Hockey Career and Future
By EVELYN GRAY
Coming off of Harvard Field Hockey’s historic top 10 finish in the NCAA this past fall, sophomore Hannah Pearce ‘21 has been selected to represent her native South Africa on the women’s Senior National Field Hockey Team. This is not the first time the psychology concentrator in Winthrop house has represented her country on an international stage; Pearce was named Dave Carr U18 Girls Player of the Year by the South African Hockey Association her freshman year.
Pearce has started every game for the Crimson as a defender since she came to Harvard, and led this year’s defensive squad to an average of 0.74 goals allowed per game, with 10 shutouts over the course of their season. She was recognized for this contribution with first team All-Ivy honors, as well as a selection to the Longstreth/NFHCA Northeast Region First Team. This year’s squad set school records for wins (17) as well as wins in a row (14). The team had its highest finish in program history — ranking 6th in the nation at the close of their season.
The Independent reached out to Pearce to learn more:
Indy: What does making this team mean to you? Was it something you thought about growing up playing hockey?
Pearce: Being included in this team is the culmination of one of my biggest goals since I was a little girl. It has been something I have been striving for as I made my way through the Team South Africa program, first playing on the on the u18 team. Field hockey has always been a big part of my life as my entire family is involved in the sport. Both of my parents have played and coached from a very young age and have been incredibly supportive throughout my training. They were thrilled when I was given the opportunity to play for the Harvard team.
Indy: What are the next steps for you on the South African team?
Pearce: We have a training camp coming up where we will train and play three test games in preparation for a big tournament in Valencia, Spain. The tournament in Spain is our Olympic qualifying tournament for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo. So the main goal is to do well enough this summer that we qualify for the Olympics.
Indy: What kind of training are you doing in preparation for this summer?
Pearce: Since I have been included in the team we have done multiple types of testing. I’ve had to complete an injury risk screening test with our trainers here at Harvard, which includes flexibility testing, core strength, and functional analysis of muscle movements. I have also recorded 4 different fitness tests to test for endurance, agility and speed. I have been doing these tests on top of my off-season training with the Harvard team.
Indy: What is your schedule like this summer?
Pearce: This summer I will be training daily for the team and will also be doing some coaching on the side. Training over the summer would include the upcoming camp and test games, which begin mid May. Because the camps start during finals period, I will be taking a few of my final exams in absentia. After the tournament, it would be a lot more training camps and extra work on the side such as fitness and strength work. I also play for a club field hockey team that will be in session when I get back, so my schedule will be filled with playing with them. A normal training week for me would include two gym sessions for strength and fitness and two hockey sessions a week. I also do extra training twice a week to improve individual skills such as overheads and drag flicking.
Indy: Are there particular players in the South African national team program who you looked up to growing up in the sport?
Pearce: Yes, to name a few, I have always looked up to Marsha Cox, Pietie Coetzee, and Lisa Deetlefs. Cox was the captain of the South African team for a while when she played and was a very influential player and captain. I really enjoyed watching her play, but she is no longer involved in the system. Coetzee is also a very inspirational player. Coetzee taught me a lot of the skills that I still use in my game today. She inspired me to learn the drag-flick, which is considered a specialty skill in field hockey. Deetlefs is still on the team and plays the same position that I play. She is very knowledgeable about the game is a very relatable and relevant player. We have been on the same teams and will be this summer, and she has always been a great role model to me.
Indy: What has being a part of Harvard’s field hockey team meant to you?
Pearce: Harvard field hockey has been an amazing opportunity and experience so far. If it weren’t for hockey, I never would have thought of Harvard as an option for University. Being on the team keeps me focused in my studies and has taught me valuable life skills and lessons. The team consists of an amazing group of women from all over the world who are incredibly smart and driven. They inspire me every day on and off the field and are some of my closest friends.
Indy: Why did you want to come all the way to Harvard?
Pearce: I chose Harvard because of its academic focus. It provides a good balance between academics and athletics. I also liked the idea of joining a developing program and contributing to its construction as a top team. I loved being a part of the team that broke the season record and earn the highest ranking in program history. One question I kept asking myself was, “If I didn’t have field hockey (got injured and couldn’t play) where is somewhere that I would most feel at home?” When I thought about that while making my decision, I thought Cambridge and Boston as a whole. I think that it is an amazing city and I really enjoy the look and feel of it. I knew that I would enjoy my time here. I also really liked the campus (Harvard Yard, freshman housing, Annenberg, upperclassmen housing), and the concept of having the athletic facilities across the river and academic buildings on the other. The academic opportunities offered by Harvard also provide me with experiences and opportunities I probably wouldn’t get anywhere else.
Indy: What is it like going to school so far from home?
Pearce: Getting home takes around about a full day of travel. The distance makes it hard just because it’s never just a quick flight to see everyone, but social media — texting, FaceTime, etc. — allows me to stay in contact with everybody throughout the year.
If all goes well and Pearce makes the final team and the team qualifies for the Olympics, Pearce will be added to the ranks of the many Harvard men and women to compete at the Olympic level. She will, however, only be the second Harvard college student to play field hockey for an Olympic team. The first — Andrew Stone ‘86 — played for the United States’ Men’s field hockey team in 1984, according to GoCrimson.com. One of the past assistant coaches for the Harvard team — Katie O’Donnell Bam — competed in the 2016 Olympic Games for the United States, and currently coaches at Maryland University.
To watch Pearce and the rest of the Harvard Field Hockey team take on Boston University in their last off-season game, head to Berrylson Field this Sunday at 2:30pm.
Evelyn Gray ‘21 (email@example.com) will be cheering for Hannah at her game this Sunday, and encourages you to do the same.