Nathalie Fiechter, a native of The Netherlands, was eager to play field hockey at the collegiate level in the United States, so she sent her scouting video and a couple of emails to various schools overseas.
She didn’t know much about NCAA field hockey, but she did know three powerhouse programs: Maryland, Duke and North Carolina. So it was a pleasant surprise when Maryland head coach Missy Meharg and her staff were the first ones to respond back to the incoming freshman.
“As an international, eventually you choose based on your feelings.” Fiechter said. “I just had a really good feeling with Missy... I just got a really good feeling about everyone here, and since I’m here, that really has been confirmed.”
Fiechter said she didn’t expect to get a ton of playing time so early in her freshman season. But she’s already found herself receiving a ton of minutes this year. She’s shown her versatility, and as a result, she’s started the last three games for the Terps.
In the 42nd minute against James Madison on Sunday, Fiechter got her first career point in what one might call a Dutch trifecta. Fellow Netherlands native Bibi Donraadt passed the ball in to Fiecther on a penalty corner. The freshman then set the ball for junior captain Bodil Keus (also a native of the Netherlands), who ripped it into the top right corner of the goal.
Coming from the Netherlands, Fiechter’s skills have clearly been able to transition, as she’s been a critical defender for the Terps this season and has played a key role on some set plays. The rookie also pointed out that talking with Keus and Donraadt before coming to Maryland helped her gain a better understanding of what she could expect in College Park.
Despite initially bringing Fiechter to Maryland as a defender, Meharg has also gotten her involved as a midfielder. So far, Fiechter only has the one assist on the year, but her stats should rise with the increased time that she’ll see at the midfield position.
But after playing field hockey in a different country her entire life, it has been quite the change for Fiechter. She says one of the biggest changes is just the simple fact that Maryland field hockey is more “professional” than what she’s used to.
“In Holland, we didn’t even have locker rooms or something like that,” Fiechter said. “We just sit in a hallway and wait for our practice. So I think it’s really different with how things are going here. And I think the experience [is] the reason why you want to come here.”
From going to hallways to big facilities with a ton of equipment and training opportunities, the freshman also mentioned how great it was to play her first game at the Maryland Field Hockey & Lacrosse complex earlier this season.
“That [was] really special,” Fiechter said. “In Holland, you just do your warm up, you play your games. But here, you have the music, the cameras, stuff like that — it’s really special.”
Maryland’s field hockey roster has five players that are international, including Fietcher, Donraadt and Keus, as well as Hannah Bond from England and Linda Cobano from Germany. This type of diversity is not new for Meharg and she says it’s something she focuses on.
“Talent’s talent,” Meharg said. “Too often we tend to look at international students and American students. Field hockey is such a global game... what I like to look at is global recruiting. And ever since I’ve been at Maryland, I’ve focused on identifying global talent and I think we continue to do so.”
When it comes to this recruiting process, Meharg says that the videos have become very complete for all players and it can give the coaches a good idea of the player’s skills.
Previously, there weren’t too many times where Meharg would be comfortable heavily recruiting a player that she saw just on video, but this idea has changed. And once Meharg saw Fiechter’s videos, she knew that she wanted her to add even more depth to the defender position for the 2019 season.
“The scouting videos are very comprehensive in that way,” Meharg said. “Nathalie is doing our six stops, and quite frankly that was one of the things in her video that she’s just phenomenal at. She can move her feet even if it’s not a very well played ball.”
And Fietcher’s teammates admire not only her talent, but the maturity and accountability she’s shown already as a freshman.
“Nathalie impressed me because she does exactly what you ask her to do,” senior goalkeeper Noelle Frost said. “And she does it in such a way that is just so effective... Her reliability is what I really admire about her and the fact that she’ll do whatever we ask her to do.”
Editors note: Testudo Times apologizes for not having this article out sooner. We had the article scheduled to be published early this morning, but the site was having technical difficulties that wouldn’t allow the article to be published. We were working all day with SB Nation’s staff to fix the issues.