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Lambert lands US scholarship

Poppy Lambert … wins scholarship to play hockey at Maine University. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

HOCKEY

CHRIS COGDALE
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Former St Matthew’s Collegiate hockey star Poppy Lambert has scored an athletics scholarship with the University of Maine.

The four-year deal to study and play hockey – or field hockey as it is known in the United States – for the UMaine Black Bears is a dream come true for Lambert, who was also a promising tennis player before deciding to concentrate on hockey at the age of 16.

Lambert played five seasons in the St Matthew’s First XI, winning two Wellington Premier Secondary Schoolgirl Championships with the team in 2017 and 2018.

Lambert, who will turn 19 in two weeks, said her time in the St Matt’s top team was the best way to prepare for the next step in her hockey career.

“The opportunity I had to develop my skills, literally from Year Nine, just always made me driven and wanting to get better,” she said.

“Phil Hall, our coach, was also the best coach and mentor that I ever experienced – so supportive, knowledgeable and he went absolutely above and beyond for the team and to help me reach my potential.”

Lambert’s talent was recognised with her selection in the Capital side which finished fourth at the 2019 National Under-18 championship.

That selection was just reward for Lambert after a broken collar bone had prevented her playing for the 2018 team.

The Black Bears play in the America East conference in NCAA Division One and Lambert expected a similar level of competition as age group tournaments in New Zealand.

“I’ve been told it’s about the same level as our national Under-18 to Under-21 leagues and that it’s a competitive conference,” she said.

“We train twice a day, with strength and fitness in the morning, and a more hockey-focused training in the afternoon. During the season, there will be one or two games a week.”

“It also involves quite a few interstate games, but that might be changed a little and the programme could be curtailed because of covid-19.”

“We get fully kitted out with every new piece of equipment we could ever want. We also have the likes of nutritionists, trainers, and tutors solely for our team,” Lambert said.

Lambert will take up the scholarship in early August but intends to travel to the United States in late July.

“Maine is quite safe in terms of what is happening in the US, so I will go over a bit earlier in case I have to self-isolate. The pre-season starts on August 11, and university studies start in September,” she said.

Lambert is also eager to get stuck into her study for a Bachelor of Science in Economics. She said there were some strict requirements.

“We get specific schedules based around our sports schedules to make it easier to balance sports and studies, and we have compulsory student study hours.

“To stay playing on the team, we have to keep our grades up. I’m not 100 per cent sure, but my scholarship means I have to keep my grade points average above 3.3, which is pretty much a combination of merit and excellence in NCEA terms.”

Before Lambert departs for the US, she wants to play some games, possibly for Dalefield in the Wellington Premier League.

“I’m planning to get some game time under my belt. I just want to get back into it.”

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