Field Hockey: Maddie Zimmer and Alia Marshall compete for Team USA


Photo courtesy of Alia Marshall

Alia Marshall and Maddie Zimmer. The pair was key to Northwestern field hockey’s national title in November 2021 and played together for Team USA in the spring.

Charlotte Varnes, Managing Editor

Junior Alia Marshall and sophomore Maddie Zimmer have had a busy year.

Last summer, the Northwestern field hockey duo was named to Team USA. In November, the midfielders won the NCAA Championship playing for the Wildcats. In January, they played for Team USA in the Pan American Cups in Chile. And, to close out their first year playing for the senior women’s national team, in June they competed against other international powers in Europe.

“This was such a crazy year,” Marshall said. “Honestly, I was pretty nervous. There really is no offseason when it comes to field hockey now.”

Marshall and Zimmer were instrumental in securing NU’s first national championship in November 2021. Each scored one goal in the Cats’ 2-0 victory against Liberty in the NCAA final. But beyond the pitch in Evanston, the pair has spent the last year finding its footing competing for Team USA. 

In June 2021, Marshall and Zimmer were among a group sent to Pennsylvania to try out for Team USA and were named to the team shortly afterward. 

With college field hockey in the fall, their international schedule didn’t pick up until January. Marshall and Zimmer traveled to Santiago, Chile, for the Pan American Cups, where they competed against teams from the Americas from Jan. 19-30. Team USA finished fourth at the event.

For Zimmer and Marshall, the competition meant missing about a month of Winter Quarter. Zimmer said she had to rearrange her schedule because of the event and worked with her academic advisor to find classes that were primarily asynchronous and online. 

Marshall also missed the first month of Spring Quarter to compete for the U-21 team in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup in South Africa. Marshall said she struggled with Wi-Fi in South Africa, making it impossible to attend live lectures. During both quarters, Marshall said her professors, classmates and TAs understood and adapted to the unique circumstances.

“My professors were champs about it,” Marshall said. “Everyone’s been well versed in Zoom and online classes, so they were helpful with making sure I could access everything.” 

Just after school ended in June, Marshall and Zimmer traveled to Europe to close out the year’s FIH Hockey Pro League competition. It was a “jam-packed” trip, Marshall said, including eight games in 16 days.

Team USA struggled against the competition in Europe, losing seven of eight games. With a younger, less experienced team, Zimmer said Pro League games often involve a “lot of learning” for American players. The program’s lone win against China was “really exciting,” Zimmer said. 

“We scraped together a couple goals, fought hard till the end and came out on top,” Zimmer said. “We definitely want to have more results like that. It’s a really good feeling. We’re going to an exciting place now — a lot of potential.”

Marshall said she enjoyed spending time in Europe’s field hockey environment because the sport is bigger there than in the U.S. The stands were crowded, reporters and fans took pictures and the games felt “really important” there, she said. 

Most of the trip was spent training or playing games, Marshall said, but she and Zimmer were able to explore Rotterdam, Netherlands, on a day off. Marshall said they visited the city’s iconic Cube Houses, walked around and shopped. 

The end of the FIH Hockey Pro League closed out Marshall and Zimmer’s first season competing for Team USA. Over the past year, Marshall said, she learned just how different international field hockey is from the college game. She enjoyed competing against international teams and identifying where she can grow as a player, she said.

Zimmer said she appreciated being able to share both her NU and international experiences with Marshall since last June.

“It’s nice to have someone I can talk to here or there about different things (like) how we’re each handling schoolwork,” Zimmer said. “We’re not alone. Even though there are other college students (on Team USA), it’s nice to have someone like Alia who is there for you on the field, off the field, at Northwestern (and) on tour.”

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Twitter: @charvarnes11

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