May 11, 2016
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia field hockey head coach Michele Madison announced on Wednesday (May 11) that Averi Bent (Philadelphia, Pa.), Hannah Cregg (Andover, Mass.), Colleen Norair (Fredericksburg, Va.), Erin Shanahan (Pasadena, Md.), Carolyn Topps (Fredericksburg, Va.), Dominique van Slooten (Laren, Netherlands), Anzel Viljoen (Matamata, New Zealand) and Catesby Willis (Fredericksburg, Va.) will join the Cavaliers for the upcoming 2016 season.
“This recruiting class is the culmination of a lot of hard work from our staff,” Madison said. “It’s been an honor to win an ACC regular-season title and be a perennial National Championship contender, which pushes us harder to put together a stronger recruiting class each year. This is, by far, the best all-around player class we have signed and there is a real potential for championships with them. If the new talent blends with the old and the ‘Hoos get a little luck, watch out. The returning team has definite goals that these new players can help drive. All players will need a clear definition about how to accomplish each individual task as well as their particular and specific role. This will take time but when you have an incoming class this solid and enthusiastic, I think it gives us a real chance when they fit in with talented classes in front of them.”
The class includes three players from the Commonwealth of Virginia, including a pair from Fredericksburg Academy in Topps and Norair, who helped lead their team to four-straight state championships. Willis, who is also from Fredericksburg, attended James Monroe High School.
“In-state had a strong talent base from which we handpicked Colleen, Catesby and Carolyn,” Madison said. “UVA is a unique life experience in studying and playing with and against the best along with the other amazing aspects of a world-class university. I want a kid that can play hard, that loves to go to class and that can be a good person doing the right thing and then we can expound on that a little bit. The staff, past and present, did a very good job recruiting the state.”
Carolyn Topps is a two-time First Team All-State Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II defender and midfielder who also garnered Max Field Hockey All-Mid-Atlantic Region honors this season. Topps made a school-record nine defensive saves in her career, including making a single-season-record five her sophomore season. Topps is also a two-time All-State honoree in basketball, finishing her hoops career as Fredericksburg Academy’s all-time leader in career points and career rebounds.
Colleen Norair is the two-time Virginia State Player of the Year, leaving Fredericksburg Academy as the all-time leading scorer with 117 goals as well as topping the career-assists list with 47. The four-time All-State and four-time All-Delaney Athletic Conference striker was the DAC Player of the Year in both 2014 and 2015 and was the Free-Lance Star Area Player of the Year this season. Norair was also a dual-sport athlete, earning All-State honors in lacrosse in 2014 and 2015.
Catesby Willis is a two-time First Team All-State midfielder who has earned First Team All-Region honors in each of the last three seasons after being named to the second team as a freshman. Willis also played three seasons of varsity tennis at James Monroe.
Topps is the sixth person in her family to attend the University of Virginia while Willis is a sixth-generation UVA student.
“I was convinced of Colleen’s abilities late in the recruiting game,” Madison said. “Colleen consistently showed improvement. Tournament after tournament, she ranked top-three in overall performances as reports kept coming in that Colleen was explosive, gritty, skilled and a quick study. She will be tested early and often. Her versatility and speed with the ball could get her on the field this season. Catesby is an ambitious young woman who knows what she wants and she is willing to work for it. Her role will be determined by her possessions skills and tackle-back defense. There is a big upside to her game. Carolyn is an anchor player who is very calm and poised as well as being a physically strong player. Adapting to UVA’s fast-paced style, playing fast but not rushing themselves, will be their first stepping stone.”
The class also includes a pair of international players in defenders van Slooten and Viljoen.
Dominique van Slooten is a former teammate of current Cavalier sophomore Nadine de Koning in Laren, The Netherlands. Van Slooten has played the last two seasons for LMHC’s A1 team, playing sweeper and inside defense as the team twice reached the semifinals of the National Dutch Championship. In 2012-13, van Slooten was selected for the District Team of Central Netherlands.
Anzel Viljoen was the MVP and team captain of the U-15 Waikato team that earned a bronze medal at the national tournament in 2012 in New Zealand. In 2014-15, she was named the MVP of her high school team before leading the 2015 Midlands U-18 women’s team to a silver medal at the national tournament.
“Dominique and Anzel add experience to the back four,” Madison said. “They join a core of determined UVA defenders. The competition and pressure to perform in practice will be intense in the backfield unit. The players will need more than skill, they will need fitness and flexibility. Selecting the right players becomes very important because the range of things we need is broad in the course of a season. Both international newcomers have distribution skills and solid tackling skills. They could be really good players for us when they bring their strengths to the UVA hockey style and understand their role on the team.”
The final three players in the class hail from the Baltimore area, Boston and Philadelphia.
In her senior season, Erin Shanahan earned Player of the Year honors from all three Baltimore-area newspapers (Capital Gazette, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post) while also being named the Varsity Sports Network Player of the Year, Maryland Field Hockey Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the Pigskin Club of Washington’s Outstanding Field Hockey Player of the Year, which is believed to be the first time any one player has earned all of those honors in the same year. Shanahan is also the only player to earn the Capital Gazette Field Hockey Player of the Year honor three years in a row. The two-time NFHCA/Harrow Sports All-American finished her career at Archbishop Spalding High with 94 goals and 50 assists.
Defender Hannah Cregg helped lead the 2015 Phillips Academy field hockey team to its first New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class A Championship in 22 years. Cregg was a 2015 NFHCA High School All-Region honoree as well as being named an Eagle Tribune All-Star and a member of the NEPSAC Class A All-Tournament Team.
Averi Bent is a defender and midfielder who played her club field hockey with Philadelphia’s Spirit of USA team, including coming out as the top U14 team in a field of 48 teams at the Disney Junior Showcase in 2012. Bent’s high school, Masterman, did not have a field hockey team, so she played three seasons of softball as a left fielder and also played varsity golf.
“Averi is an ambitious sponge, a strong 1v1 step-up defender who will go through the wall for her team,” Madison said. “There is a load of untapped potential in her. Erin is very athletic and could play either striker or fullback at Virginia. She demonstrates the skill set and composure to play in the back. Erin wants to play striker. She is ambitious, athletically gifted and plays older than her years. Hannah has a solid skill set and is a physically strong player. She will add back-up power and more positional competition.”
The Cavaliers lose just one player to graduation, forward Taylor Brown (Charlottesville, Va.), from the 2015 team that earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“For what we need, for how we play, for what we do, to add an attacking threat like Erin Shanahan and the relentless play of Colleen Norair, Averi Bent and Catesby Willis, that is a fantastic addition to our team,” Madison said. “Carolyn Topps, Dominique van Slooten, Anzel Viljoen and Hannah Cregg are flexible in their positions, bring a lot of athleticism and versatility and I think are perfect for our system. You mix these newcomers in with our nearly-intact returning team, and you’re talking a lot of kids that love the game, a lot of kids that are competitive and a lot of kids that have skills. It comes down to ambition and wanting to be part of an outstanding team. These first years will have to train intensely to endure the physical rigors of the daily performance expectations. Coaches will deal with the players individually, giving them feedback that is specific to their task and challenging them with goals that can be reached in game ready or development practice environments. We will push them to be better than what they are, and motivate them with loads of feedback and encouragement. We have to test their resilience early with early performance expectations in a pressured environment.”