CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia head field hockey coach Michele Madison announced the signing of four future Cavaliers to National Letters of Intent. Amanda Crider (Vienna, Va./Marshall), Effie Nicholaou (Charlottesville, Va./Western Albemarle), Tara Puffenberger (Dallas, Pa./Dallas) and Phoebe Willis (Fredericksburg, Va./James Monroe) will join the UVa program in 2009-10.
“The Class of 2013 provides much needed depth to empower the fast-paced attacking system that separates Virginia from the rest,” Madison said. “We have 17 players returning and this is the first year we could recruit and build the depth of the squad. I look forward to fielding two full teams at practices to maximize training and development.”
Three of Virginia’s four signees hail from the state of Virginia and Nicholaou is the first player from Western Albemarle High School under Madison’s tenure. Puffenberger, meanwhile, hails from Pennsylvania, Madison’s proven successful recruiting ground, choosing Virginia in the 11th hour.
“Competition is the best motivator,” Madison continued. “This class will push the current team to new levels. With the 2013 class on the heels of the returning players, more great things are about to happen at Virginia.”
Crider was selected as a first-team all-state selection as a senior goalkeeper at Marshall High School. She was a fourth-time all-district honoree and a two-time all-region and all-metro selection.
“How could I not choose UVa?” Crider said.
“Amanda was to the first to commit at our Blue Chip Junior day,” Madison said. “I am not even sure she told her parents before she told me. Her goalkeeping strengths are her cat-like reflexes and athleticism. She is extremely coachable and eager to develop her game for the Division I level. I am fully convinced she will provide the leadership and mental skills it will take to help her new team to realize its goals. Amanda's work ethic and discipline provides her with a great foundation for success.”
“Growing up as a native of Virginia, I have always had a high regard for the prestigious University of Virginia,” said Crider’s father, Dennis. “It is considered a premier institution, a credit to the state, and the ‘dream school’ for many. Walking the community and Grounds, talking to students, alumni and administrators only confirmed our belief that this is a terrific choice for Amanda. I am very proud to be a Cavalier Dad.”
“Amanda recognizes the challenge of competing in the toughest collegiate conference and is excited about being coached by a tremendously skilled staff led by head coach Michele Madison,” said her mother, Robin. “Michele is a coach who emphasizes academic achievement, character development and athletic excellence. It impresses us that she wants her student-athletes to fulfill their full potential. Amanda is looking forward to contributing to the success of the program.”
Nicholaou is a four-time Futures participant and twice competed at the USFHA Festival. At Western Albemarle High School, she was honored as a four-time all-state selection, including twice being named to the first team. The 2008 Regional Offensive Player of the Year twice led Western Albemarle in scoring and helped lead her team to a state championship in 2007.
“Living down the road from a well-established university, I found it impossible to find another college I would rather attend,” Nicholaou said. “No other college compares to what UVa offers with its academics, athletics, and tradition. I’m so excited to become a part of the tradition of excellence at UVa and have the opportunity to play on such a talented field hockey team.”
“Effie lives about two miles from our home field,” Madison said. “She has led the charge for Western Albemarle and Central Virginia’s first state championship in field hockey. Effie is a team player in every sense of the word and will challenge for time in the midfield or forward line. I was most impressed with her transition game. She works to get in position on attack and defense and led with a blue collar, never-say-die work ethic on her high school team. Effie has a fundamentally sound hit and has a nose for the goal.”
“Attending UVa and playing field hockey is a dream come true for all of us,” said her parents, Mike and Terri Nicholaou. “Effie’s desire to play hockey at the collegiate level began in the fifth grade. Since then she has relentlessly pursued every opportunity to improve her skills. It has paid off and now we have the opportunity to watch her take her passion to the next level. Virginia was her top pick – for the school, the program and the coach. We couldn’t have hoped for a better coach than Coach Madison; her reputation is that she demands excellence and yet treats her athletes with respect. We were impressed with every aspect of the program and the facilities.”
“Effie exhibits an unselfish, team-player attitude on and off the field,” said Robin Woodie, Nicholaou’s club coach with High Voltage. “Her enthusiasm for the game is contagious.”
Puffenberger is a current member of the United States Junior National Team and brings a plethora of national and international experience to Virginia. Most recently, Puffenberger competed in the U21’s tour to Australia alongside current Cavaliers Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese.
Puffenberger is a two-time first-team All-American and All-Region selection out of Dallas High School. She is a two-time member of both the United States U21 and U16 national teams in addition to being a fourt-time Olympic Development Select participant.
“It was important to me to find a school with the perfect balance of academics and athletics,” Puffenberger said. “That balance was hard to find, but after a long search that was complicated by unexpected twists, I believe I have found that combination at UVa. After spending a second weekend on Grounds, I discovered that Virginia’s hockey squad is full of hard working, but at the same time, fun-loving players. I look forward to spending the next four years having fun with my teammates while working hard both on and off the field. I hope to be able to help the team build upon a very successful 2008 season with the ultimate goal of winning a national championship.”
“Tara was the last to commit,” Madison said. “In the end she just couldn’t resist the opportunity to play in the ACC and at Virginia. Tara brings the most national and international experience to the class. I know she had a tough decision and we are so pleased she chose to continue her career at Virginia.
“She answers questions for us in the midfield with the graduation of All-American Inge Kaars Sijpesteijn. She brings speed, a solid passing game that elevates the small game, and makes the players around her better.”
“As a parent, I could not be happier with my daughter’s choice of school,” said Puffenberger’s father, Mark. “This decision was an extremely difficult one due to unanticipated changes in circumstances that occurred after Tara had previously committed to another school nearly 10 months ago. In spite of a very powerful emotional attachment to her original commitment, the longer and harder she looked at Virginia, the clearer it became that UVa was the perfect choice. She discovered a sincere commitment to excellence both on and off the field as well as a strong feeling of camaraderie amongst the team. My wife and I are confident that UVa will provide Tara every opportunity to be successful as a student-athlete and we look forward to our opportunities to share with the hockey family as well.”
“We are all so proud of Tara’s accomplishments here as a student-athlete at Dallas High School,” said Robyn Jones, Puffenberger’s guidance counselor. “As our Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paul Reinert has commented about Tara, ‘I’d loved to have her on my team and I wouldn't want to play against her.’ From a school counseling point of view I am impressed by Tara’s ability to multitask and balance her demanding schedule of academics and athletics. UVa’s academic reputation and Michele Madison’s coaching reputation speak for themselves. The best is yet to come for Toughie Puffy under the tutelage of Madison and her staff.
Willis is a member of the U19 Futures national team and is a three-time USA Futures participant. At James Monroe High School, she was a first-team all-state selection in 2008 in addition to being a two-time all-district and all-region first team honoree. As a senior she helped James Monroe to a runner-up finish at the state championships. She will be the sixth generation of her family to attend the University of Virginia.
“Virginia not only demands physical excellence but also academic excellence from its student-athletes,” Willis said. “Once I met the field hockey team, their ability to both work hard and have fun made me 100 percent set on choosing UVa.”
“After considering other excellent academic and field hockey opportunities, Phoebe woke up one morning and decided she had not only an obligation, but a burning desire to uphold the family legacy and attend the University of Virginia,” Madison said. “Her grandmother still gives her advice on how to play field hockey and probably still will when she wears Orange and Blue; the family colors. “Pheobe’s relentless work ethic will close the high school to ACC hockey adjustment gap quickly. She possesses the competitive prowess and will work diligently to master UVa’s system.”
“Phoebe has continually pushed herself here at James Monroe to reach even higher standards,” said Jamie Tierney, Willis’ high school coach. “Her drive to succeed is deeply ingrained and she has certainly raised the bar for players at our school. While playing in Division I is a whole different level, Phoebe’s determination and sheer love of the sport will carry her on to continued excellence. We are proud to have been a part of this outstanding player's past and we look forward with great anticipation to her future.”
“Phoebe is a competitive asset for the High Voltage Club program,” Woodie said. “Her passion for the sport allows her to play with fire and intensity. She has a year-round desire to learn and improve her level of play.”
“We are both pleased and proud that Phoebe’s academic and athletic achievements have afforded her this wonderful opportunity to be a part of the quality program that exists at the University,” said Willis’ parents, Gordon and Tori. “Phoebe is no stranger to Grounds, having attended football games almost since birth. She will follow in her ancestors’ footsteps and be afforded not only superior athletic training but academic excellence as well. The Grounds reflect this unique combination of old and new through the tradition of the Lawn compared with the expansion of new academic buildings. Mr. Jefferson’s academic village concept remains at the core of the University and we are thrilled that Phoebe will be able to play a part of it all as a student athlete. For Phoebe, as for us, her dream is now our reality.”