It began with an email.
In her message, Belgian striker Charlotte de Cuyper told coach Marybeth Freeman that she wanted to be an Owl.
Soon after, a Skype call from Freeman informed de Cuyper that she was on the Owls’ 2015 roster.
“The moment … I can’t even describe how happy I was,” de Cuyper said. “I was so happy because my dream of studying and playing in America had finally come true.”
With the addition of de Cuyper, Freeman knew that the striker could be a supplement to an offense that scored nearly three goals per game last season.
“[De Cuyper] is a true attacker with a beautiful touch on the ball,” Freeman said. “[She is] a playmaker up front and she was someone who I knew would be explosive in the attacking circle.”
The recruitment of de Cuyper marked the first time in 35 years the Owls landed a prospect from across the Atlantic. The last was Caroline McWilliams, a three-time All-American from Northern Ireland who played for Temple from 1980–1983.
“There was a lot of international interest [from de Cuyper] in coming over and playing in America,” Freeman said. “After I got that initial email and looked at her footage, I reached back out to her and she had the things we were looking for in addition to the incoming [freshmen] class.”
De Cuyper, hailing from Antwerp, a province of Belgium, has been a member of the Braxgata Hockey Club for the past six years, leading the U16 and U19 teams in scoring.
In 2009–10 and 2010–11, she played for Antwerp’s provincial team, made up of the Top 16 players in the province. De Cuyper’s Antwerp team won the Belgian Championship in her first year, beating out the other nine provinces for the title.
“A lot of players at my club [Braxgata] went to the USA and were advising everyone they knew to go there as well because it was an amazing experience for them,” de Cuyper said. “That’s when I realized that playing hockey in the USA was definitely something for me.”
De Cuyper said a big reason she was able to get the opportunity with the university was a business called OverBoarder.
Its co-founders, Dennis Mertens and Benoit Matival, created OverBoarder with the goal of helping international athletes find opportunities to move to the United States and play their sport at the university of their choice.
“Dennis has been a tremendous help throughout this process,” said de Cuyper. “He asked for my academic, athletic, geographical and financial preferences and thanks to him, I ended up at this fine university.”
With the addition of the Belgian striker, Temple’s roster now has two players from outside of Pennsylvania — the other being redshirt-sophomore defender Taylor Janney from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Finding talent outside of Temple’s usual pipeline is something that Freeman wants to improve upon, both domestically and internationally.
“I am [planning to recruit in different regions of the world],” Freeman said. “And not only to diversify in terms of the international side of things, but also across the country. Yes, we are in a hotbed of hockey in this Pennsylvania area, and yet there’s so much talent across the country.”
Top programs across the country, including in-state rival Penn State University, have far more out-of-state players on their rosters than the Owls.
Penn State, Northwestern University, Connecticut, and the University of Maryland, the only four teams that are both higher than Temple on last year’s final National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll and opponents on the Owls’ 2015 schedule, each have at least 9 out-of-state players on their rosters.
“Whether it be in Ohio, Maryland, Connecticut, or New Jersey, there are talented players all over this country, so when I say diversify I’m not just talking about the international scene,” Freeman said. “I’m talking about across the country and getting the best recruits possible, so we can be as successful as possible.”
Additionally, Northwestern, UConn, and Maryland each have at least six international players on their rosters.
“It’s definitely good to look all over the country to find different players,” junior forward Katie Foran said. “There are players out there everywhere. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with [out–of–state recruiting] and I think it could help a lot.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mattcockayne55.