Before enrolling at Temple, field hockey midfielder Tess Muller lived in the United States for only a year when she was three years old and her father moved to Miami for work. That has since become a distant memory to the now-20 year old.
For most of her life, all Muller knew was Naarden, a small town in the Netherlands with fewer people than Temple has students. The change of scenery and lifestyle can be overwhelming for anyone, especially coming from a foreign country.
“It was crazy coming over and seeing the amount of people in one place,” Muller said. “Everything in America feels bigger, and the schools and cities were no exception.”
Muller joined the team as a freshman in 2021 and made an immediate impression on her coaches and teammates. She played in 19 games, starting in 16, and registered two goals and three assists, tied for second on the team in both categories.
Field hockey is one of the most popular sports in the Netherlands, and Muller began playing when she was just five years old. By the time she reached her senior year of high school, she was ready for a new challenge, and not just in field hockey.
“After high school, I wanted to do something that would broaden my horizons,” Muller said. “I wanted to come to the United States for the experience, and it’s an amazing opportunity here to be able to be in college and play sports at the same time.”
For Muller, that meant signing with Temple Field Hockey. Although her life has changed completely, the first team all-conference midfielder and multiple-time AAC Player of the Week has kept her hometown roots and grown in her new role.
Coming to the U.S. meant completely changing her lifestyle and adapting to a new culture. She left behind her home, all of her childhood friends, working at the job she loved and her favorite foods.
However, she did not leave behind arguably the best talent she has: her voice. Muller began singing when she was just two years old and has loved to sing ever since.
At 12 years old, Muller was featured on “The Voice Kids,” a singing competition for children created as a spinoff of “The Voice,” while living in the Netherlands. In recent years, she’s showcased her voice at Temple by performing the national anthem at The Liacouras Center before a men’s basketball game.
“I really hope that one day I can be a singer or songwriter,” Muller said. “There is nothing else really that I have this passion for, so I hope it can take me somewhere.”
Singing helped Muller feel better about moving to America because it reminded her of being home. It gave her a sense of security in her new environment by connecting her to teammates and coaches. As she got more comfortable, she continued to develop confidence away from home.
She also had two role models that helped her adjust to her new life. Fellow Dutch natives Nienke Oerlemans and Myrthe Schuilenburg were already on Temple’s roster when she joined the team. Both players helped Muller get used to college life in the U.S. by providing her examples of what worked for them.
“I definitely helped her a good amount,” Schuilenburg said. “I was just there if she had any questions or needed help getting adjusted to the culture.”
The style of play in America is different compared to what Muller was used to in the Netherlands, and her preparation in between games has changed quite a bit as a result.
“The biggest difference that I noticed was definitely the physical aspect,” Muller said. “The weight room seems to be way more of a focus here compared to back home, and I am still not the biggest fan of the weight room.”
Temple did not know what to expect from Muller either. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, head coach Michelle Vittese had to rely on watching film to assess Muller’s potential as part of the program.
Despite the initial adjustment, Muller quickly found success at Howarth Field, using her speed and ability to make an immediate impact.
During the last two years, Muller has established herself as one of the best players in the Big East Conference. As a sophomore, she was second on the team in both goals and assists, while leading the team in shots and shots on goal. Her performance earned her a spot on the Big East’s first-team all conference.
Now in her junior year, Muller is once again expected to be an all-conference player and continue to serve as an important voice in the locker room.
“Tess has a very bubbly and sweet personality and she is very uplifting,” Shuilenburg said. “She is not the one who always talks the most, but when she does say something it is always positive.”
In her journey, Muller has made strides both on the field and as a person. She has made herself comfortable in Philadelphia and has become an integral part of the field hockey program.
“I think she has found a lot of success because of the way she has been able to connect with her teammates,” Vittese said. “Her and the girls are deeply rooted in community.”