PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the truly impressive collegiate field hockey careers in local history in coming to a close at the University of Pennsylvania.
Senior Alexa Hoover will play the final game of her Penn career on Saturday as the Quakers wrap up their regular season at home against rival Princeton.
Hoover is Penn’s all-time leader in goals (67 – currently 23 more than second place) and points (161 – an amazing 63 more than second place) and she has been a dominant force since she arrived on campus as a freshman back in 2014.
“In our first preseason meeting that we have with the coaches, everyone meets individually,” Hoover recalls for KYW Newsradio. “Coach asked me, ‘What are your goals for the season?’ And I straight up told her, ‘I want to be Ivy League Rookie of the Year.’ And I didn’t let off the gas pedal and I just went for it and I knew that it was something that I could achieve if I just set my mind to it. Obviously, it paid off (laughs).”
She did indeed win Ivy League Rookie of the Year and that was just the start of something really special. Hoover has been first-team All-Ivy throughout her career. As a sophomore, she set program records for goals (27) and points (63). Recently, she was chosen to play in the prestigious National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I Senior Game which is set for November 17th at the University of Louisville.
Field hockey has been a passion for Hoover, a Collegeville native, for a long, long time.
“I was four years old and my mom went to sign me up for the YMCA soccer league like they do with every little kid,” she says. “But it was full and they said they were starting field hockey, this is the first year. My mom was like, ‘You’re going to give four year olds sticks?’ They were like, ‘Yeah, it’ll be fine.’ So I’ve been playing field hockey since then.”
She appeared on the radar of Penn head coach Colleen Fink pretty early on.
“First time I ever laid eyes on Alexa I knew she was a really special and talented athlete,” Fink tells KYW Newsradio. “I was a coach in the Viper field hockey program, which is a developmental and club program just outside of Philadelphia in Oaks, PA. Myself and my assistant coach, Katelyn O’Brien, we’ve been coaching together for about 12 years, we both coached in the program. I coached at the U16 and U19 division and my assistant coached at the U12 and U14 division. Alexa Hoover just happened to be on Katelyn O’Brien’s club team. We were either at a shared tournament or practice time, I can’t remember which, and I’ll never forget, Katelyn comes up to me, and I was coaching at Haverford College at the time, and she said, ‘Oh my God, you’ve got to come see this kid, we’ve got to recruit this kid!’ I said, ‘Okay, how old she is she?’ She says, ‘She’s 11 or 10.’”
Fink went over to watch Hoover.
“She’s got the rec specs on, she’s about four foot nothing, seventy pounds soaking wet,” Fink says, “but talk about a knack for scoring, she had a knack for scoring even back then. She just put herself in really phenomenal positions, she was just so aggressive for a kid her age and you could just tell she loved to play. Which is, I think, what set her apart in her developmental years.”
Hoover has provided Penn fans with a lot of special moments during her time with the Quakers. So which ones stand out to her?
“Definitely when we were down 2-0 against Harvard my junior year and I scored two goals to tie it up, for us to go to overtime,” she says. “We ended up losing, but I broke the [Penn] career goals record that day. That was just such an amazing feeling to know that I broke it less than halfway through my junior year season and I still had half my junior and all my senior season to go. Another one was definitely this [past] weekend’s Syracuse goal. Not only was it just, in general, the coolest goal I’ve ever scored, but it was just so cool that it was the game-winning goal.”
Fink says another impressive thing about Hoover’s career is how she has adjusted over her four years.
“Freshman year, you come in as a rookie, there’s minimal expectation, she obviously surpassed any expectations that people had of her,” Fink says. “Sophomore year, I remember having countless conversations with her summer going into sophomore year, ‘I don’t want to be in the sophomore slump, I need to make first-team All-Ivy.’ She’s always very driven, not only by the team goals, but by her personal goals. Then junior year, we started to make some transition changes in terms of our strength of schedule. So having those conversations with Alexa that maybe your sophomore [season] statistics were the outlier. We’re going to be upping the ante, we’re going to be facing a lot tougher competition, you might not score twenty-plus goals your junior year. So she had to adapt to that, playing a different level of competition, playing tougher defenders, people who knew her tendencies, who watched more film, who really knew how to defend her well and then being able to set up her teammates more efficiently.”
Fink says Hoover’s impact goes beyond just game days.
“What she also does, outside of the game setting, is that she sets the standard at practice,” Fink says. “And I think that the younger players have been able to develop even more so because they see that she doesn’t change from game to practice. She is one of the few athletes that you rarely see have a bad day at practice.”
While she is wrapping up her college career, Hoover is hoping to continue to play the sport she loves.
“I’m going to look to see if the national team is an option for me,” she says. “I’m definitely going to tryout. I’m not just going to be able to drop field hockey this quickly, it’s been a part of my life for 17 years.”
When it comes to what she has meant to the program at Penn, Hoover says she is very aware of how special a ride the last four years have been.
“It feels really good to be able to represent, not only Penn, but my team in this way,” she says. “I don’t really know what more to say than I love it here and I’m sad I’m going to be leaving.”