Field hockey runs in graduate student Veronika Novakova’s blood.
Her father played field hockey professionally in Germany and her younger sister plays field hockey for SK Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic.
Born in Prague, Czech Republic, Novakova is the first field hockey player from the country to play for Temple University. Having joined the team this summer, this spring will be her first season with the Owls.
Before picking up a stick, Novakova was a dancer. Her younger sister started playing field hockey, but there weren’t many opportunities for her to join a team until she found one for young girls when she was 10 years old, she said.
“My younger sister started playing first and I became jealous that she can practice sometimes and have games every weekend,” she said. “I was running between dancing and field hockey, so I quit dancing and started fully focusing on hockey.”
Prior to coming to Temple, Novakova played for SK Slavia Prague, a club field hockey team. She earned five top-five finishes with the club, including a first-place finish in the 2017 EuroHockey Club Challenge.
Novakova competed in 12 games and scored two goals for the Czech Republic national team.
“I started crying, I felt really honored and every athlete dreams to wear a jersey of their national flag,” Novakova said.
After playing for the Czech national team, Novakova was uniquely recruited to Temple when the Czech Republic Field Hockey Federation posted an article on Facebook that included information about playing collegiately in the U.S.
Novakova then posted her highlight videos for U.S. coaches to see. Shortly after, multiple schools attempted to recruit her, she said.
Temple reached out to Novakova via Instagram direct message and invited her to play for Temple.
“I felt so comfortable talking to them and they were so excited,” Novakova said. “When I finished the call, I went to the living room to talk with my parents and I was smiling, I was so excited.”
Head coach Susan Ciufo believes Novakova will add more energy to the team because of how quickly she moves on the field, she said.
“I was super impressed with her speed, tenacity and I think she’s a phenomenal player,” Ciufo added. “When we saw her film, we knew that she would be a really good addition to our program. She’s extremely gritty, quite talented and reads the game really well.”
Conditioning is one of the largest differences between playing field hockey in America and Europe. European field hockey training focuses more on the fundamental skills while American field hockey training focuses on being fit, Novakova said.
Her teammates notice she’s working hard on the adjustment because she gives high effort when the team is running during practice.
“She’s been really into her running, and she’s improved a lot in her conditioning,” said redshirt-sophomore midfielder Kerrie Lorenz.
The team has also been impressed with Novakova’s play on the back end of the defense, said junior back Nienke Oerlemans.
“I can predict the movements of the opponents, that’s my biggest strength,” Novakova said. “I have a lot of experience, thanks to my age, and I played a lot of games with my club and the national team. I hope I can lead.”