Q&A with field hockey’s Nadine de Koning

Differences between hockey in the USA and back home?

We caught up with sophomore back Nadine De Koning, a native of Laren, The Netherlands, after the Duke game. Congratulations on the win over Duke. It was exciting to watch. What was it like from your perspective on the field?

Congratulations on the win over Duke. It was exciting to watch. What was it like from your perspective on the field? 

“I feel like it was a great game.

We knew it was going to be tough. Duke is always a good opponent, very skilled. I felt throughout the game we were going to win. We were playing very confident and played really well.”

Being a defender is often a thankless job as your impact doesn’t always show up on a stat sheet. Tell us how you and your fellow defenders have been so effective the last few games against some very potent offenses.
“Defense is really under appreciated and you don’t really get all the credit that you could get. Duke scored both of their goals on Friday off penalty corners. I think that shows you that our defense is really good, keeping them from getting any field goals. I really like playing defense because it is so important. You could score a ton of goals, but if you don’t play defense well, it doesn’t matter how many goals you score.
“I try to communicate a lot and work with all of my teammates. I try to organize everything early. I try to tackle outside of the circle and focus on very technical stuff.
“Last year, I played sweeper, which was a lot of defense. This year, I am playing center back, which means I can also contribute to the offense more.

You were just talking about your position change. It also seems like you are more vocal out there this year and having more fun. Would you agree with that assessment?
“That is definitely true. Sometimes I even smile (laughs). Last year, everything was new. I thought that I was ready to move to America and that things would be very similar to the way they were in The Netherlands. Both are very Western countries, free and liberal. It shouldn’t be too much of a difference. Obviously, there is a huge difference. It was a culture shock in the beginning, especially with the language difference. I had to get used to communicating on the field in English. In Holland, I would always do it in Dutch. Processing things in English was also slower than me doing it in Dutch. This year, I am used to everything. I know how everything works. I know the language better. I know the system better, too. Every team plays differently. Every team has their own strengths and weaknesses. I know that better now and I can play off that better.
“Also, I have so many more friends this year. Last year, I didn’t know anyone except the 23 girls on my team. It was hard to start over again. I’m used to everything now and having so much fun!”

What is the biggest difference between the hockey here and the hockey back home?
“In Holland, we start earlier, when we are six or seven years old. Most people over here start in high school. In Holland, we focus more on the technical skills, especially when you are younger. Here, they focus more on strength and conditioning. At Virginia, we focus on the technical as well, but overall, the game in America is about running and strength.”

What is the thing you miss most about home?
“My dog, Simba. And my family. I FaceTime with my parents and I ask them to show me Simba. She doesn’t recognize my voice over FaceTime, though, so she just keeps sleeping.
“I also miss the food in Holland. I love Dutch food! There are these things called stroopwafel. It’s a thin waffle with caramel on the inside. It’s so good.”

It had to be pretty daunting to decide to come all the way to America to study and play hockey?
“It was a big decision. I went to a showcase where American coaches were watching, but shortly after that, I changed my mind and decided that I could study and play hockey in Holland. And then I realized this was too good of an opportunity and that I really needed to try and do it. A friend of mine that I played club with, Esmée Peet, is at the University of Delaware right now. She was a year older than me and came back in the summer and told me all of her stories. It sounded like so much fun, I definitely wanted to do that. It was very easy for me to chose Virginia.”

You’ll be playing against her in a couple of weeks (Oct. 18) when the team goes to Delaware. What will it be like to play against her?
“She is playing midfield and is really good, so I am hoping we don’t play against each other. I am looking forward to seeing her!”

You have quite a few games before Delaware, including William & Mary on Monday. What do you do to make sure that you are always focusing just on your next opponent?
“I feel that in Division I, every team can beat every team. You should never underestimate one team because every team is going to be good. Since we are 7-0 now, every team wants to win against us and be the team to beat us, so they are always going to play us really tough. We should always be prepared for that.”

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