Sophomore back Nienke Oerlemans comes from a family of athletes.
Oerelmans has played field hockey since she was five. Her mother, Maaike van der Zee, played field hockey for the Dutch National team. Her younger brother, Sem, plays soccer in the Netherlands competitively.
Oerlemans was born in Switzerland, and then she moved back to the Netherlands, her parents’ native country, when she was two years old.
They moved to Apeldoorn, a small town in the Netherlands where field hockey isn’t a prominent sport, but her mother was very influential in her field hockey career, Oerlemans said.
“She was the one that signed me up at a field hockey club, and I immediately liked the game,” Oerlemans said. “She always has been my coach or team manager throughout my years playing hockey.”
Oerlemans followed her mother’s footsteps and believes her constant support made her more successful, she added.
Before coming to Temple, Oerlemans played for Apeldoornse Mixed Hockey Club in Zwolle, Netherlands. She won player of the year and led the team with 11 goals in the 2016-17 season when the team won the championship for the second division.
It was difficult to adjust to American-style field hockey at first, Oerlemans said.
Dutch-style field hockey is more about stick skills and keeping the ball, while American-style field hockey relies more on strength and running, Oerlemans added.
“At home, it’s a very technical game, and here it’s more long hits on the ball,” Oerlemans said. “Here, everyone is more fit, and we run a lot more with the ball. It was hard to adjust to at first because I was used to only making short passes.”
She has implemented parts of the Dutch style to her advantage, said senior midfielder/forward Kathryn Edgar.
Oerlemans is tied for first in assists this season with five and has scored two goals, totaling nine points. She recorded one goal and one assist in the team’s home win against Villanova on Oct. 25.
“I love how she brings skills from her home, and I love her cultural approach of hockey,” Edgar said. “She brings a great knowledge of the game, and you can see that when she plays.”
Oerlemans played back in the Netherlands but was moved to midfield/forward by former coach Marybeth Freeman last season.
Coach Susan Ciufo, who joined the team in January, moved Oerlemans back to her original position this season because her “composed style of play is most useful in the backend,” Ciufo said.
“Her potential is limitless, and her ceiling is so high,” Ciufo added. “She’s just really showing us we made the right decision.”
Oerlemans is a sport and recreation management major and wants to work for the National Olympic Committee when she graduates.
“I think it would be cool to work for such a big sporting event,” Oerlemans said. “It affects a lot of people in our society, and I think it would be awesome to work on.”
She’s thought about playing field hockey after college and is keeping that option open, Oerlemans said.
“I think about it sometimes, but I don’t really know if I will. It all depends if I go back home where it’s normal to play after college,” Oerlemans said.