Senior Kaitlyn Hiltz and the third-ranked Virginia field hockey team returns to the NCAA semifinals for the second straight year when the Cavaliers face defending national champion at 2 p.m. Friday in College Park, Md. Hiltz, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to chat about playing in the national tournament, what she'll remember most about playing at UVa, and her future plans.
Question: What does it feel like to be returning to the NCAA semifinals again this year?
Hiltz: It's a good feeling. We will be going out there a little more focused, a little more confident the second time around. The first time you kind of get caught up in it all. We are embraced in what we came here to do; we are on a mission.
Question: How would you describe the season?
Hiltz: It has been pretty forward-driven. We have all had the same mindset since preseason. There are ups and downs, we've had wins and losses. But we have been determined to try to get our best out of each game.
Question: In both NCAA games, you were at one point trailing to Michigan State and Princeton. How were you able to overcome those deficits to come out on top?
Hiltz: That is something we have definitely improved upon - even though we have nine freshmen, they have embraced it as well. When you get down, you can't let it be indicative of how you are going to play the rest of the game. Those were definitely two of our most nerve-wracking games and I think everyone got a taste of how easily you can be kicked out when it comes to tournament play. You don't get second and third chances.
Question: This is your last time competing this weekend. What will you miss the most?
Hiltz: I think I will definitely feel differently right away because it's been such a big part of your live for four years. It's going to be a really big change. You are a part of a team and see these people everyday. I will miss that part of it, as well as going out to the field everyday and seeing people compete and bring what they have.
Question: Is there a specific moment you remember most from playing at UVa?
Hiltz: Probably still when we qualified for the NCAA Tournament our first year. The seniors that year were pretty tough on us; we were typical freshman to them. But then when we all qualified for the NCAA Tournament and came together as a team, that brought a whole new meaning for us. Every since then, us core seniors have bonded together to keep riding that train. I think it's pretty cool that we have reached a new level each year. That has stuck out to me the most.
Question: What is your major? What are you going to do next?
Hiltz: I am an English major with a media studies minor and I will graduate in May. I am not sure what I will do next, but that is definitely the first thing on my agenda after the season ends. I was at one point during the middle of the season trying to do some future career correspondence and it would never work with my schedule. I originally wanted to do something with sports broadcasting but then I did a sales-marketing internship this summer and it kind of showed me there are a lot of other things out there. My biggest goal is to just try to get as many contacts as I can and see what I can do.
Question: What has been your favorite class at UVa?
Hiltz: I really liked exercise physiology with Lisa Womack; that was a good one. She also taught contemporary health issues and that was pretty interesting. I also really like the media studies film class that I am in right now which is all about westerns. I had never taken a film class before.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Hiltz: Hang out with my friends, roommates and teammates. I think to try new restaurants in Charlottesville. When I did my internship this summer in Charlottesville it allowed me to see so many places around the city that I never knew even existed. I am always bothering my friends to try something different.
Question: What advice would you give future field hockey plays?
Hiltz: Keep everything in perspective. Always remember to give it your best everyday. That is all anyone can really ever ask of you. You are given a great opportunity, and it's about taking advantage of it.