The US university hockey season is fast-approaching with 15 Irish players looking forward to the Division One campaign with scrimmages coming up in the next week.
The system has proven a decent developing ground in recent years with Ayeisha McFerran, Roisin Upton, Megan Frazer, Bethany Barr and Sarah Hawkshaw completing four-year stints stateside.
At Monmouth University – rated 29th at the end of last season –Yasmin Pratt will join former Railway Union goalkeeper Kate O’Hogan at the Hawks. The Kilkenny College graduate was due to line out for the side last year but returned home at short notice to play the season with Muckross in the EYHL.
The Irish Under-21 panelist is now in position to take up her place and major in healthy and physical science. O’Hogan is in her second season after 10 starts last season with a save percentage of 0.714 and three clean sheets.
The Mount Anville graduate is mentored by former Kilkeel, Lisnagarvey and Pembroke man Dave Williamson who is now part of the USA national setup.
At University of Massachusetts (33rd last term), Michelle Barrett becomes the latest Crescent/Catholic Institute graduate to move to the US, taking up a graduate student position.
“I wanted to experience playing field hockey in the United States and UMass is providing me with this opportunity,” she said. “I also liked the graduate programs they offered. This means I can get the best of both worlds: playing a high level of hockey, while also getting a graduate degree in an area of my interest.”
At 42nd rated Vermont, another pair of former Muckross players are in situ. Claudia Cotter has played 36 times for the Catamounts in her two seasons to date while Clodagh Ferry had a fine debut year in 2018.
She was named in the American East Rookie team, landing two game-winning goals against Dartmouth and Cornell.
Former St Gerard’s player Robyn Murray is at 26th ranked Old Dominion where she appeared in all 17 games in her freshman year.
Kathryn Edgar will play her fourth year with the Temple Owls where the Lurgan woman was the college’s top scorer. They were rated 67th at the end of 2018 and she will get expert coaching from top USA international Michelle Vittese.
Mariana Birdthistle swaps Limerick for Lock Haven (61st last year) to vye for a goalkeeping role. She joins sophomore Niamh Sexton – who hails from Fermoy – at the university.
Kelsey Hengerer embarks on her third year in the US, continuing the Richmond Spiders (51st) long association with Irish players with the Galway woman becoming a regular last term.
Muckross and Mount Anville speedster Niamh Gowing will compete for Providence in both hockey and athletics. She previously represented Ireland in the European Junior 4x400m championships and was part of the Irish Under-21 hockey panel.
She spent last season playing for Muckross while doing her first year at UCD but is now eligible for four seasons with the Friars (35th rated).
At Michigan State (41st), Jade Arundell – formerly of King’s Hospital and North Kildare – had a fine first season in 2018, making 122 saves in 20 games.
Katie Larmour – who captained MCB to the Kate Russell in 2016 – will hope to be able to return to action this season with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11th rated in 2018). After two spectacular seasons, she only played one match last season but was named in the 2018 Academic All-Big Ten.
Kerrie Burns was a starter in all 19 of Rutgers games last season, her second in the US, having previously played for the Irish Under-18s.
They are joined at the outfit by Rachel Houston who joins from Lisnagarvey having previously played at Irish Under-18 and 16 level. She joins after a remarkable season across school and club in 2018/19 when she scored 73 goals.
Kate Gourley moves from Pegasus to Delaware (16th) following an excellent season in which she won the EYHL and Champions Trophy crowns: “I chose Delaware because of the opportunity it gives me to combine playing top level collegiate field hockey with an outstanding exercise science major.
“I was attracted by the vision and priorities of the program and look forward to developing as a player, a student and member of the Blue Hens family.”
Her coach, Rolf van der Kerkhof, added: “Kate is an intelligent and dynamic hockey player, with a high level of both technical and tactical understanding and ability. With her experience gained as a member of the Irish U18 National Team, as well as for Pegasus Hockey Club in the EYHL, she will be able to organize the play and players around her.”
The side features Ulster man Jordan McKee as associate head coach. He is among a number of Irish coaches in the US with Mark Egner holding the same post at the William and Mary College.
Another Muckross star, Katie Ronan is embarking on her third year at Drexel (49th). 50th ranked Lafayette Leopards is the team of Sophie Carr – sister of Irish men’s international Jamie – will begin her third year in the US.
In Division 2, former Muckross School and Club player Ellie Fitzgerald has travelled this year to take up a place at Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina.
** The following list is the best of my knowledge; if anyone missing, let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org
Monmouth – Kate O’Hogan; Yasmin Pratt
Umass Amherst – Michelle Barrett
Vermont- Claudia Cotter; Clodagh Ferry
Temple Owls- Kathryn Edgar
Lock Haven – Niamh Sexton; Mariana Birdthistle
Richmond Spiders – Kelsey Hengerer
Providence – Niamh Gowing
Michigan State – Jade Arundell
Rutgers – Katie Larmour, Rachel Houston, Kerrie Burns
Delaware – Kate Gourley
Drexel – Katie Ronan
Lafayette Leopards – Sophie Carr