Anna Willocks a big key to SJU field hockey success

Matt Leon
October 03, 2018 - 12:02 pm
Senior forward Anna Willocks is Saint Joseph's University's all-time leader in points and assists.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Saint Joseph's University field hockey team has emerged on the national stage under head coach Lynn Farquhar.

Last season, the Hawks finished 18-4, won the Atlantic 10 title and earned the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history.

Here in 2018, the Hawks have picked up right where they left off in 2017. So far this season, SJU is 8-2 (3-0 A-10), ranked 14th in the country in the latest NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll and ninth in the latest RPI rankings.

"This group came back ready to go, a lot of returners," Farquhar said. "I knew we had a great core, but the reality is you have to perform every year. So, so far, so good. Nothing is ever perfect, but that is a part of the process. What I'm most proud of is this group is continuing to work, they want to excel, not only on the field but off the field, and they are continuing to take on challenges to get the program to a new level. They're not content. I think that's the most exciting thing about coaching them."

One of those returners for the Hawks is senior forward Anna Willocks. A native of New Zealand, Willocks is winding down a phenomenal career by rewriting the program record books. She is already the program's all-time leader in points (157) and assists (29) and she is just three goals away from tying the program record for career goals. (She has 64.)

Farquhar says it's not hard to see why Willocks has enjoyed such success.

"She's a worker and she plays with such passion," the coach said.

Prior to her time on Hawk Hill, Willocks had only been to the U.S. on vacation, and that was on the west coast. She talked about her expectations when she came to Philadelphia four years ago.

"I was hoping to become a better player," she said. "Back then I feel like I was so young, and I was so excited about getting to train every day, because that just wasn't something that I did at home. I feel that over the years I have become a much better player. I was talking to Coach Lynn the other day about how my balance has just improved through the roof, really. Which has helped me improve.

She says she didn't know what to expect of college. 

"Coming from New Zealand, you see a lot of the movies about the U.S. college experience, and there have been times where it has been very similar, but then times when it's been very different. The one thing about Saint Joseph's University is the professors are very caring about you as a person and your grades as well, so that's been really helpful for me."

There was obviously a lot to adjust to early on, and Willocks remembers working through some doubts early in her career. 

"My first couple of games I wasn't really scoring any goals," she says. "All my life, I'd been told strikers score goals, and that's my position. So I remember coming in and just not being able to put it in the back of the net and being like, 'Oh my gosh. Is this going to happen, you know? Can I do it?' With the help of my coaches, and my striker coach especially, she just told me, 'You just need to relax.' I think that's something I get told a lot now as well: 'Just calm down while you're on the ball.' So that happened, and I remember being like: 'Oh, it's going to be okay. I can still score goals here as well.'"

Indeed she could.

Farquhar says Willocks is one of the people who have truly impacted this program during the last four years.

"Anna's entire class, actually, the three seniors this year," she said. (The other two are Joely Helder and Monica Tice.) "I've been so impressed with their journey, because they've faced different challenges and helped excel this program every year."

Willocks is just savoring every moment of her final year on campus.

"I don't really feel like I'm a senior," she said. "I think I'm still stuck in my junior year. I'll go through stages where it hits me. I was saying to some of the girls the other day in practice, 'I just got all emotional because I realized that it's getting near the end of my career here.' So, yeah, I guess I am taking the time to reflect in certain parts, but then at other times you're just so busy and in the moment, you don't really think about it."

Willocks and the Hawks will return to action on Friday, visiting Drexel.

Follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleon1060.