Six-hour difference

Michael Clement

Ever dream of working out with your home country’s national team? Freshman Hedda Biermann-Ratjen has already done it.

How about being named to your favorite league’s first team? Biermann-Ratjen has done that too.

What about becoming a national champion? You guessed it – she’s done that as well. Twice.

Biermann-Ratjen, Quinnipiac field hockey’s newest goalkeeper, is no stranger to tough competition. The Hamburg, Germany native was Harvestehude THC’s starting goalkeeper during her secondary school years.

After years of tearing up the Bundesliga – a German league – with her club, Biermann-Ratjen made a profile with an agency that specializes in connecting European athletes with college coaches in the United States. Quinnipiac made an initial introduction to Biermann-Ratjen, and she immediately became interested in its field hockey program.

[media-credit name=”Brendan O’Sullivan” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]“On my profile I got a response from [associate head coach] Nina Klien and we immediately started emailing about my journey in field hockey so far and about the university and its program,” Biermann-Ratjen said. “I first of all really enjoyed hearing about the school, but I also I liked the way she was talking about the program and the sport. It was very focused on individual development, but also the development of the team in the past and over the next year.”

The idea of Quinnipiac’s field hockey program was alluring for Biermann-Ratjen, but what really sold her was her soon-to-be teammates. Upon showing her interest, several players reached out to Biermann-Ratjen to help her feel more comfortable with coming overseas to play for the Bobcats.
“I got to meet two players over Skype and I really enjoyed talking to them on a personal level,” Biermann-Ratjen said. “That was really important to me to feel comfortable with the people I was going to see every day for the next four years.”

Back in May, Biermann-Ratjen traveled to the United States for the first time to visit Quinnipiac and its field hockey program. She raved about the Mount Carmel campus’s atmosphere and community, which coupled with the university’s academic prowess ultimately helped her decide to attend.

“Everybody you meet here is like nicer than the person you met before,” Biermann-Ratjen said. “[My teammates] all have a rare combination of being very, very friendly, but they will tell you what you need to do in order to get things done without intimidating you, and they will do their part as well. You can really feel that when you talk to them. When you’re coming to a whole different culture like this you feel like you’re in good hands.”

Biermann-Ratjen admits she was anxious about moving to the US at first, but once she moved in she quickly adapted. Though living at college can be stressful to some at first, she has found solace in having a fixed schedule to adhere by everyday.

“I think it’s a huge help to live on campus because although it’s a culture shock at first, you’re pretty busy so you don’t really get time to stress out because you’re either in class or you’re with your roommate who you just met,” Biermann-Ratjen said. “And then the rest of the time I’m on the field, so I feel like keeping us busy is a pretty good way of getting adjusted, so I feel pretty good.”

As soon as she got settled at Quinnipiac, however, the Bobcats traveled to California for exhibition matches against UC Berkeley, UC Davis and No. 21 Stanford at the end of August.

[media-credit id=2277 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Biermann-Ratjen made her Quinnipiac debut against California, allowing only one goal on seven shots in her 22 minutes of play. She saw a few more minutes against Stanford the next week and allowed one goal on 10 shots. Biermann-Ratjen was lights-out in her first career start for Quinnipiac during the Bobcats’ home opener on Sept. 14, posting a shutout on 15 shots after being in goal for the entire game.

“Stanford was a huge experience,” Biermann-Ratjen said. “It’s a very strong team, and to see our team improve our game against them. I personally was very impressed to see our team step it up in the second half even though the first half hasn’t been going great. I think that’s a very hard skill to have, like a lot of people get frustrated when the first half doesn’t go like they want to. And that’s something that this team doesn’t do.”
Though field hockey is Biermann-Ratjen’s passion, there is nothing more that she loves than her family and friends back home in Germany. Lately, she’s been working to find times in between her busy schedule to contact them because they are always on her mind.

“I’ve been really enjoying staying in contact with family and friends from home, but it can be difficult to communicate with them just because of the time zone difference,” Biermann-Ratjen said. “When I have free time at 6 p.m. because practice is over, my friends and family are asleep. If I have time in the morning it’s the middle of the day for them. Their lives don’t stop just to talk, and vice versa. So that’s kind of a challenge and be able to find the time.”

One thing Biermann-Ratjen is most excited about for her four years ahead of her at Quinnipiac is her academics. The behavioral neuroscience major is eager to delve more into how the human mind works, and apply her knowledge to a potential future career.

“I essentially do what a biology major would do but then I also get into the psychology of things like neurology and the interplay of the psyche and the biological system,” Biermann-Ratjen said. “I find that very interesting and I’m very excited to see how that major is going to evolve over the next year. I would really like to get into research or development of treatments or study design.”

Biermann-Ratjen and the Bobcats are entering the thick of an arduous schedule ahead of them in the Big East. Their first interconference matchup is at home in Hamden on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. against the University of Connecticut. With Biermann-Ratjen protecting the goal, the Bobcats look to improve on their 2-5 record in the Big East last year.