Georgia Holland remembers the first time she grabbed a field hockey stick.
"I was a seventh grader at ," she said. "I just liked [playing field hockey]. It was new; not like anything I had done before, and I like a challenge. By the end of my eighth grade, I knew I could get good at this and I was excited to try out for the varsity."
Field hockey became her favorite sport, and Holland continues to improve her skills and savvy. Now, she is a member of the USA Under-19 national team, and the former prep All-American at has been named the 2010 co-rookie of the year for the Ivy League. She started all 17 games for Yale University last fall and sparkled as a versatile midfielder, including a league-high five defensive saves.
When she was younger, Holland played basketball, soccer and softball near her home in Stony Brook. She also went skiing and snowboarding. But holding a field hockey stick proved personally precious.
"It is kind of my third arm," she said. "I have played so much the last few years that it is really naturally when I hold it. ... I think of [field hockey] as a combination of the other sports and that is why I like it."
For Ward Melville, Holland started four years. As a senior, she was a team captain, and was named the 2009 All-Long Island Player of the Year by Newsday and an All-American. Holland helped Ward Melville advance to three straight trips to the New York State Final Four, including one Class A state championship. In addition, Holland was a starting point guard in basketball and played lacrosse for the Patriots.
"Georgia will go down in the books at Ward Melville as one of the best female athletes," said Shannon Watson, the Patriots' field hockey coach, who has known Holland for more than six years. "She really sets the bar high for herself; a combination of her work ethic and athleticism. She is very focused and determined and always up for a challenge."
During her last two high school seasons, including a 23-2 team record in 2009, Holland scored 40 goals and 26 assists.
"Her game sense is unbelievable," Watson said. "Not one of the fastest, but one of the smartest – when to hold the ball, when to distribute the ball."
Holland, who played in youth leagues for the Three Village Soccer Club and for Infant Jesus Catholic Church in Port Jefferson, said "deep down" she set a personal goal to become the Ivy League rookie of the year.
"I think I am good because I grew up playing sports and I think I have a field sense," she said. "I know where I should be. ... I think my strength is passing the ball."
After relocating to Yale's campus in New Haven, Conn. last summer, Holland quickly adjusted to the more demanding collegiate lifestyle for athletics and academics. During her first college season, Holland said she devoted 25 to 35 hours a week to practices, games, weight lifting, film study and travel to road games. She is studying chemistry, French, calculus and environmental engineering. Each week she attends a four-hour chemistry lab, and many nights she visits a Yale library.
"I'd stay up late, [typically] three or four hours of homework," she said.
During her first Yale season, Holland was named the Ivy League rookie of the week three times. She assisted on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over her team's biggest rival, Harvard.
"Georgia is one of the best freshmen to come through our program in my 14 years at Yale ... but none that had an impact her first season as a Bulldog as she did in 2010," said Yale coach Pam Stuper. "G came up big! Game after game after game. She has innate game sense, incredible skill and competetiveness bar none."