Goucher College opens up opportunities to student-athletes wanting to continue their playing career at the collegiate level. They come from near and far for the chance of glory and an experience of a lifetime. For the 2019 Goucher field hockey team, five of the players came from over 3,000 miles away and the state of California.
Devin Brashear, Ari Hooper, Alexyss Pawlak, Madi Resolme and Mia Wiggins are Gophers from the West Coast. Hooper, Resolme and Wiggins call San Diego home, Pawlak is from Huntingdon Beach and Brashear hails from Escondido. Goucher has had a pipeline into the California market for several years now.
Pawlak and Resolme were stalwarts on the Goucher defense for the last four years and graduated in May. Brashear has been the last line of defense for the last two seasons in goal. Hooper had a breakout offensive season as a junior, leading the team in goals, assists and points to earn All-Landmark Conference second-team honors while Wiggins was third on the team in points including a career-best seven-point performance against Ferrum in her sophomore campaign.
So how did five girls that live 90 minutes away from each other in California end up in Baltimore and wearing the blue and gold? The simple answer is opportunity.
"Since there are only four colleges in California that have field hockey teams, and that they're all Division I schools, playing on the East Coast gives a good opportunity for California field hockey players to find a good spot for them at any division," said Hooper. "I think that since field hockey is such a niche in California the players there are always working hard, especially if they want to play on the East Coast where people have been playing since they were super young."
"Most girls in California do not start field hockey until late middle school or high school," said Wiggins. "For those who want to play in a Division II or III setting, the only other option left is to travel to the east coast. I think Goucher's team appeals to new California field hockey players because there is a community not only at Goucher of California residents but also a smaller community within our team."
"I ended up choosing Goucher College because out of all the East Coast schools I was looking at, I like Goucher's location the most," said Resolme. "Goucher's location resembled the closest to home and that's what made me feel comfortable enough to make the decision to go to school so far from home. Also, I wanted to go to school on the east coast because there were more options for Division III field hockey teams. Since there were several girls on the team from California, I felt that I would be left in good hands and have a support system that I wouldn't have at any other school."
Each student-athlete choose Goucher because they liked the campus, its small class sizes and on their recruiting trip they had a chance to get to know and fall in love with the team - all things that most student-athletes will say about choosing Goucher.
Moving over 3,000 miles away as a 17- or 18-year old can be difficult especially since in most cases it is the first time being independent and being away from family. One thing that helps is that field hockey is a fall sport so as soon as you arrive on campus you are immersed in something familiar.
"The first months of the semester were field hockey season so my time was always taken up from practices, games, away games, classes, and homework," said Pawlak. "I was really busy which was a good thing! I was dedicated to both my studies and field hockey and making such great friendships right away with the girls on my team."
"I'm really glad that I had field hockey to keep me busy the first few semesters because it really made me focus on balancing everything so I wasn't overwhelmed with adjusting to college life," said Wiggins. "I also tried to keep in touch with my parents a lot in the first few months. I remember texting my mom all the time over the smallest things."
"It's nerve-wracking," said Hooper. "A lot of friends I had at the time thought I was crazy for wanting to leave home but I think it takes a little bit of craziness to want to try something way out of your comfort zone. It helped me discover who I am not only as an athlete but as a person. I can't help but feel like my college experience would feel less complete if I chose a college back home with the same people I saw in high school."
Going somewhere far can take some time to adjust, but the advantages of growing and maturing as a person are things that these student-athletes might not have learned if they stayed closer to home
"I learned that I am stronger than I think," said Resolme. "There were times where I really thought that I couldn't go forward anymore and I just wanted to give up, but every time I fell I kept going. I think not only going to a school away from home but playing a collegiate sport made me mentally stronger. Although at times I feel like I'm not mentally strong, I look back at this whole experience, and there would be no way I could have gotten through it without being strong mentally."
"I learned that I am very independent and can do whatever I put my mind to and can succeed," said Pawlak. "I have put myself out of my comfort zone a lot at Goucher and it has really helped me grow to the person I am today. I am more confident in myself and know I can overcome hardships that come my way."
"I learned how to be independent but also learned the line between being independent and taking on too much for myself," said Hooper. "Sometimes it is easy to feel like I am by myself when I am going through a hard time, but the strong Goucher community reminds me continuously that I am not alone and there is always someone or many people willing to help me out."
It has been a great experience for each of these athletes and they can provide some advice for anyone thinking about going far away for their education.
"Find a good support system that you can rely on and also be open-minded about being independent and being on your own," said Wiggins.
"Go for it and not to be nervous," said Pawlak. "There are going to be good days and there are going to be bad days, but the good days outweigh the bad by far. I would tell them to get out of their comfort zone, interact with people they may not have before and get involved in the community. Goucher becomes a family very quickly and being there will only be as good as you make it."
The area these players come from has nice weather, year-round beaches, In-And-Out Burger, great Mexican food and family that they might miss while they are at Goucher. On the other hand, there are also things that they miss when they are home.
"When I'm home from school, I miss being independent," said Resolme. "Although I miss my family when I'm at school, I miss having time to myself when I'm at home. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. When I'm at school I get into a routine, class, field hockey or gym, study, and occasionally hanging out with friends. When I'm home, it's hard for me to get into a routine because everything isn't right there like it is on campus."
Goucher is a great place where both students and student-athletes from near and far gain a similar experience… a great education and the chance to learn a lot about themselves.