To most, captaining a collegiate field hockey team while pursuing a psychobiology degree would be daunting to say the least. But for fourth-year midfielder Hannah Ackerman, this is her reality and she has done nothing but excel. Her hard work and skill have not gone unnoticed, as the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) has named her as one of their national all-star athletes.
On Nov. 15, the NFHCA announced their Division III All-Star senior team and Ackerman earned a spot as one of 60 athletes chosen across the division. Her selection marks three consecutive years of Hawks being selected and seven total Hawk selections in program history. This year, she is one of four athletes from the SUNYAC to make the team.
For selected student athletes such as Ackerman, a spot on the NFHCA senior team is more than just a recognition of their successes. Each year, selected students’ high achievements are commemorated through a personal highlight reel, an engraved award, custom apparel and an opportunity to compete in the annual Division III All-Star game, of which the date has yet to be announced.
Ackerman’s selection comes as no surprise considering her impressive accomplishments in her three seasons as a Hawk. In her first collegiate season in 2021, she led the team with 12 goals, helping the Hawks win the conference title. She also earned SUNYAC Tournament MVP and was selected as an NFHCA All-Region recipient. In her second collegiate season, she once again received an NFHCA all-region award and led the team with 10 assists, which is the third highest number of assists in a season in New Paltz field hockey history. Since her recruitment, she has started every Hawks game and has earned a spot on the All-SUNYAC first team all three seasons, one of only three players in New Paltz history to do so.
Following all this, making the NFHCA Division III Senior Team only further emphasizes Ackerman’s talent in and commitment to field hockey, giving her yet another accomplishment to be proud of. Her admirable devotion to the sport is a testament to her strong character and is especially rooted in family.
The Nesconset, New York native comes from a large, yet close-knit family of field hockey players, which ignited her passion for the sport from a young age. When she saw her three older sisters enjoying the game, she aspired to be like them, joining a travel team in fourth grade. She quickly fell in love with it and was playing for her school team by seventh grade. When it came time for her to select which college to attend, the opportunity to compete in a nurturing environment was one of her top criteria, which is how she found herself at New Paltz.
Before applying, Ackerman was already familiar with the competitive, yet supportive nature of the New Paltz field hockey team, as two of her three elder sisters had represented the Hawks before her. One of these sisters, Dani Ackerman, was selected to the 2015 NFHCA Division III Senior Team as one of the first two Hawks to do so. Although these were tough shoes to fill, Hannah’s selection to this year’s senior team showed how capably she followed in her sister’s footsteps and it is surely a proud moment for the Ackerman family that the two of them have received this prestigious award.
While it is evident that her family has been a major influence on her success in field hockey and selection to the NFHCA senior team, Ackerman acknowledges the community she has found in her team at New Paltz has been important as well.
“My favorite thing about the team is that we’re all really close and it’s like a family environment,” Ackerman said. “I feel like I’m at home when I’m with my team. We just spend so much time together, even in the offseason, we’re basically glued together.”
The field hockey team being such a tight-knit group and highly uplifting environment contributes greatly to Ackerman’s positive attitude towards the sport. The vibrant culture helps keep her passion alive and makes practice something she looks forward to everyday.
“Field hockey is definitely my outlet. It’s where my reset is. If school is stressing me out, I can’t wait to go to practice,” she said.
Although Ackerman emphasizes the enjoyment she gets out of the game, it has provided her with much more than just a fun way to spend her time. She credits the sport with strengthening her ability to listen and make adjustments, helping her learn to work effectively with others and most of all, teaching her hard work and dedication.
“I don’t really stop all year round,” she explained.
Despite being a fierce and committed player with a crucial leadership position, co-captaining with Morgan Woolley and Rachel Tama, Ackerman remains humble, not wishing for her teammates to view her as more than them.
“With my leadership role, I try not to make a clear difference. I’m just another part of the team with a few more responsibilities,” she said. “I don’t think anyone sees me as above anyone else, which makes more of a family environment in the team.”
It is clear Ackerman’s level-headedness helps keep her fellow Hawks grounded as she has captained the team through a strong season this year. The Hawks won 14 of their 19 regular season games and were runner-ups in the SUNYAC championship, losing by only one point to SUNY Cortland. Alongside co-captain Rachel Tama, Ackerman led the team with 13 assists, also scoring seven goals and playing the most minutes during the season.
Of course, even devoted players like Ackerman need a strong support system and Ackerman expressed her immense gratitude for the opportunities her community has provided her.
“I’m very grateful for my coach and the entire athletic community at New Paltz. It’s an experience that has made me who I am and it is definitely something I will take with me into whatever comes next.”
Ackerman will be competing in one additional season following her graduation in May 2024, as COVID-19 stripped her and her fellow Hawks of the opportunity to compete in 2020. Looking at the career she had thus far, she will certainly be one to look out for in her final season.