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Freshman Tara Puffenberger and the third-ranked Virginia field hockey team continue Atlantic Coast Conference play at 1 p.m. Saturday against second-ranked and unbeaten North Carolina. Puffenberger, who is currently second on the team in scoring, recently caught up with to talk about why she chose UVa, her international experience, playing in the ACC and what she likes to do for fun.

Question: How would you describe your first few months of college?
It’s been both challenging and enjoyable. It’s the first time you’re on your own so there are going to be some new things. The schoolwork has been challenging, as was the hockey part in the beginning, getting used to the system and what not. But I love it here – the school, the people, and playing field hockey.

Question: How has your international experience helped you transition to the college game?
I have always played with people who are older than me, so that is nothing new. Having two people on this team who I have played with before (Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese) has helped because they already knew college side of it. The older girls are smarter about the game and that helps a lot. It has been a good transition.

Question: What has it been like to play with Paige (Selenski) on three different teams: high school, U.S. Junior National Team, and now here?
We actually started playing field hockey together. We are best friends and our families are really good friends. We have known each other for a long time. On the field it has been a good thing because we can recognize where each other is and we trust each other with the ball. We have a lot of experience playing together.

Question: What has been your favorite place to play internationally?
Mexico has been my favorite tournament because we won (the Junior Pan American Games). But I would have to say Australia was my favorite place to visit. It was awesome.

Question: Why did you choose to come to UVa?
The balance between academics and athletics was important to me. The team is really fun and we have been winning so that is obviously a plus. Academics are challenging but coming out of the University of Virginia with a degree is like coming out of Harvard. It is a prestigious thing. But I also wanted to go somewhere I knew I would be happy, and I knew a lot of the girls on the team. I love playing with them.

Question: What do you like to do for fun?
I like hanging out with our team and I still stay in touch with my high school friends. I hang out on my computer a lot; I really love finding stuff on You Tube. I just laugh by myself. “Grape lady falls” is the funniest thing you will ever see in your life.

Question: You have a pretty good nickname.
Nobody really knows my first name, everyone just calls me Puff. My newest name is Positive Puff. I am one of four, so a lot of people who knew my sister called me Little Puff.

Question: What has it been like to play in the ACC?
Already playing Wake Forest and Maryland, they both have a lot of girls who have played internationally as well. They have as much experience as anyone else, which makes for some competitive hockey. If you watch an ACC game compared to a lot of other games, it’s at a completely different level. It’s always a challenge walking on the field to play at ACC team.

Question: Is it strange playing against some of your U.S. teammates?
It’s so weird. When we played Maryland, the girl who was marking me played in Boston (on the Junior World Cup team). She was one of my best friends on the team. So now we are playing against each other, do we say hi? We didn’t really know what to do. But everyone is just so competitive; nobody is going to be on the field laughing. We are all good players and good friends.

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