Freshman Phoebe Willis and the third-ranked Virginia field hockey team is back home this weekend with two games, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday against Cornell. The Cavaliers then welcome No. 4 Wake Forest for the first of two games with the Demon Deacons this season at 2 p.m. Sunday. Willis recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to talk about her transition from high school to college, continuing the family tradition and her favorite spot on Grounds.
Question: How would you describe the difference between high school and college hockey?
Willis: College field hockey is a lot harder, obviously. It is definitely a step up but you are able to learn a lot more. College, in general, is harder, so there is more to learn about life. It's a good challenge and though time-consuming, you are able to find a way to balance it all out.
Question: What is your role on the team?
Willis: Right now it is just to be a team player. I try to stay positive about everything and in practice I go as hard as I can. Everybody needs to be ready for the games. When I'm in I give it my all and when I'm not I stay positive and cheer on and motivated my teammates.
Question: What is the team chemistry like, especially now with the season hitting the halfway point?
Willis: The loss to Maryland was hard but on the bus ride back everyone was staying positive. We still have so many more games to play. I think everyone is a lot more supportive of each other, especially compared to other teams I have played on. Even if a starter gets beat out that person is cheering her on. We all know we have one goal and that is to succeed as a team. It's not about individual accomplishments.
Question: Who has helped you get adjusted to the college game?
Willis: The seniors have done a nice job but I would say that Shelly (Edmonds) and Boyd (Vicars) have also really helped me a lot. I think just being a defender, they have been great. I have done some individual workouts with Shelly and Kaitlyn (Hiltz) and they have been so positive. Boyd has been really patient and was the first one to really sort of explain the system to me. Those three have really helped me adjust for sure.
Question: How did you get started playing field hockey?
Willis: My parents actually forced me to play field hockey when I was about eight years old and I hated it at first. I played soccer instead. Then about middle school, I got kind of burned out playing soccer, and traveling all the time, so I started playing field hockey again. I fell in love with it.
Question: What made you want to come to UVa?
Willis: I am actually the sixth generation of my family to attend UVa. That was a big part of it. My grandmother also played hockey at Richmond and so being able to play hockey in college was a plus. My first Halloween costume as a kid was a UVa cheerleader. I don't think I have ever wanted to go anywhere else.
Question: How are classes going? What has been your favorite so far?
Willis: My favorite class is actually calculus. It is just straightforward. If you go to class and do your homework, you are going to do well, and I like that. You don't have to read like in all my other classes. There is always and answer and you are either going to find it or you're not.
Question: What are your hobbies outside of field hockey and school?
Willis: Hanging out with my teammates. We like to watch TV and shop. Our team loves to go shopping on our off days. A couple of teammates, including myself, also like to go tanning.
Question: What is your favorite spot on Grounds?
Willis: I like walking past the Rotunda down to the Corner. I make that walk a lot and it's so pretty. The Lawn, its kind of cliché, but it's so beautiful. It makes you appreciate everything so much more. You know you're not here just to play hockey but also to get a great education.