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Ashley Hoffman follows her mother’s footsteps, reaches Summer Olympics

It sounds like hyperbole that Ashley Hoffman had a field hockey stick in her crib.

Then again, maybe it’s not.

“She was pretty small,” said LaVerne Stauffer, Hoffman’s maternal grandmother. “She had a hockey stick that was probably about a foot long. She always had a hockey stick. It was something she always played with.”

Hoffman not surprisingly has followed the footsteps of her mother, Brenda, who starred at Twin Valley and Penn State. Later this month, Ashley will represent the United States on the women’s field hockey team in the Olympics, like Brenda did 40 years ago.

“It means a lot to be in this position,” Ashley said. “It’s something that has bonded us my entire life. We always watched hockey games together and talked hockey. It’ll continue to be like that after this. It’s pretty cool. I’m happy to make her proud.”

Olympic bronze medalist Brenda (Stauffer) Hoffman, left, on whether her daughter, Ashley, and her U.S. teammates can win a medal in Paris: "That would bring pure joy to my heart." (Courtesy of the Hoffman family)
Olympic bronze medalist Brenda (Stauffer) Hoffman, left, on whether her daughter, Ashley, and her U.S. teammates can win a medal in Paris: “That would bring pure joy to my heart.” (Courtesy of the Hoffman family)

Brenda (Stauffer) Hoffman did more than set a shining example for her only daughter. She coached her from elementary school through high school and helped develop her into a four-time all-state player at Twin Valley and a two-time All-American at North Carolina.

Brenda and her husband, Scott, will be in Paris to see if their daughter and her teammates can join the 1984 group as the only U.S. women’s field hockey teams to win a medal. They will face Argentina July 27 in their first game in pool play.

“I hope they equal or better what we did,” Brenda said. “That would bring pure joy to my heart. I would love that.”

Ashley Hoffman, 27, first dreamed of playing in the Olympics when she was about 10 years old, a few years after she had started playing organized field hockey. She can recall looking through a USA Field Hockey magazine and seeing photos of junior national players and telling her mother, “I would like to do this.”

She also played basketball and softball, but field hockey was her natural calling. She said her mother didn’t push her hard until she reached eighth or ninth grade.

“There were times when we were on vacation and I just wanted to relax,” Ashley said. “She’d be like, ‘Are you going to run today?’ She knows exactly what it takes. There would be moments when she showed the tough love that I needed. I’m super thankful for the support she gave me.”

Brenda Stauffer, a 1979 Twin Valley grad, stood out in three sports in high school: field hockey, basketball and softball. She was the winning pitcher when the Raiders won the 1977 PIAA softball championship.

At Penn State, she was a two-time All-American and the 1982 national Player of the Year. She helped the Nittany Lions win two AIAW national titles and reach the first NCAA Final Four. She was the youngest player on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.

She became a physical education teacher and a coach and not surprisingly could see that her daughter had athletic ability at a young age.

“Yes, she had a choice (whether or not to play field hockey,” Brenda said with a laugh. “Of course I encouraged her to play. I coached at Twin Valley when she was little. She was always around the field hockey girls and always around the sport.

“I think there were times in her youth when she questioned whether she wanted to continue, especially because Mom was on the field and the pressure of feeling that she had to get my approval. She stuck with it and eventually fell in love with it.”

Ashley was a three-time Berks County Player of the Year, helped Twin Valley win two county titles and finished her high school career with 104 goals and 75 assists.

She had a decorated college career at North Carolina. She started every game in her four years, led the undefeated Tar Heels to the 2018 NCAA championship as a senior and had her number retired. She was named national Player of the Year, like her mother, and the Atlantic Coast Conference Female Athlete of the Year.

She has been on the U.S. national team since 2017 and endured the pain of not qualifying for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the first time since 2004 that the Americans missed the Summer Games.

“It was heartbreaking, extremely hard,” Hoffman recalled. “It had always been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics and I don’t think I realized how difficult the path to qualifying was. It is a fight to get into the Olympics. I don’t think it was until after that I realized what it all meant, that we weren’t going.”

Through the turmoil of coaching turnover and the team changing its base three times, Hoffman emerged as a team leader, along with fellow co-captain Amanda Golini. They used the failure to reach the Tokyo Olympics as motivation over these last few years.

“Our program just blew up in a way after we didn’t qualify for the Olympics,” she said. “We no longer had a home pitch. A lot of the team had left. We had coaches come and go. Those years were vital in that we were figuring our way forward in terms of our culture and how we want to be as athletes.”

Hoffman credits David Passmore, who was hired as coach last year, with “steering us in the right direction.”

The U.S. finished second in the Pan American Games in November before entering the Olympic Qualifier in January in India as a longshot to place in the top three and make the Olympics.

The Americans posted shutout wins over India, New Zealand and Italy. Japan scored the first goal in the semifinals before Hoffman tied it with about six minutes left. Abby Tamer scored on a rebound goal two minutes later for a thrilling 2-1 win.

“It was euphoric,” Hoffman said. “I remember screaming and looking for my co-captain, Amanda. She beelined it toward me. I remember her jumping into my arms. And the celebration began. Those are the moments you dream of and the highs that we chase.

“It was a bit of relief. There were elements of shock in it, too. There was so much pride that we had buckled down a year ago to go on this journey and make steps toward the greatness that we know we have.”

Back home in the United States, Brenda Hoffman watched with nervous excitement. She called it a “surreal” moment because no one had expected the Americans to qualify and because her daughter would be playing in the Olympics, like she did.

Over the years, Brenda mostly kept her bronze medal in a drawer or a safe deposit box, but she also displayed it at show-and-tell presentations at school and let Ashley play with it sometimes. It now hangs on a wall at her home after Ashley and her four brothers had it framed.

“It was indescribable to win it,” Brenda said. “It was an experience in life that you can’t even put into words. I remember just running around the field after we won the bronze with the U.S. flag wrapped around our shoulders. It stays with you for life, just the pure joy and the feeling of accomplishment that you have.”

LaVerne Stauffer, Brenda’s mother, was in Los Angeles 40 years ago to watch her daughter play in the Olympics. She used to drive by herself to North Carolina to see Ashley’s college games in her 70s. She’s 82 now and is active with volunteer work, but she has decided to watch the Paris Olympics from home.

“Ashley has said all along that if her mom can do it, she can do it,” Stauffer said. “It’s sort of been a goal for her. It’s neat to see her achieve that goal. She’s worked hard to do that. For Brenda to see her do something like that is pretty special, too.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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