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Unlikely freshman leads field hockey team in offense

In Johanna Bischof's hometown of North Vancouver, British Columbia, you are more likely to find youngsters playing hockey with pucks than balls, but this freshman forward hasn't been found lacking in experience.

Bischof currently leads the eighth-ranked field hockey team (4-1) with four goals and 10 points. In a surprising display of dominance for a first-year player, Bischof has either scored or assisted on a goal in each of the five games Duke has played so far.

"She is pretty confident in her skills, more so than a typical freshman," senior forward Liz Bateman said. "She doesn't play like a freshman; it feels like I've been playing with her for years."

A member of the cross country, soccer and track teams, Bischof only began playing field hockey competitively in eighth grade, when her school picked up on the rising trend and added the women's version of popular ice hockey to its sports program. She did not become serious about the sport until her junior year, though, when her high school, Carson Graham, dropped its women's soccer program.

Bischof's success is all the more surprising considering that her high school team only practiced three hours a week, compared to the more intense 10-plus hours that have become standard for American high school teams.

To augment her playing experience, Bischof competed on local club teams, where she met current Duke teammate Suzanne Simpson. The two-time first-team Regional All-Star then traveled to West Palm Beach, Fla., for the National Field Hockey Festival.

"We were looking to pick up some talented players," coach Liz Tchou said. "We were especially looking to pick up a back like [Simpson] to replace [leading scorer] Courtney Sommer. [Bischof] just fit in well with our system and players."

Bischof's team placed third in the tournament, and her competitive play caught the eye of many American universities.

"I was banking on going to the local college, [the University of British Columbia], which is 20 minutes away from my house," Bischof said. "Then I went to the national tournament and got recruited."

Merely recruited is an understatement, as the University of Richmond, Wake Forest, Maryland and Yale all expressed interest in the speedy forward. But Bischof chose Duke based on the Blue Devils' coaching staff and the University's academic reputation.

"Coming from Canada, you don't hear of many universities in the United States, but I had heard of Duke," Bischof said. "I heard about the athletics first, especially the basketball team, and then the school."

Like most first-year players, Bischof was uneasy about making the transition from high-school to college-level play.

One of her main reasons for attending Duke was that two-time national champion and Honda-Broderick recipient Cindy Werley is one of the assistant coaches. The Honda-Broderick Award is equivalent to the Heisman Trophy for field hockey and is given to the top collegiate field hockey player in the country.

Citing Werley as one of her role models, Bischof was excited to begin working with the famous coach. However, not even she expected to display the level of success she began with: Her first career goal came seven minutes into her first collegiate game against Radford Aug. 25.

"I'm still surprised I got to start this early in the season," Bischof said. "I was looking forward to getting a varsity letter out of this season. I by no means thought this would happen."

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