Pippin L. Saunders ’16 has come — literally — across the globe to play college sports at William & Mary. Word of mouth and a scholarship provided by generous donors to the Tribe Club brought Pippin from Australia to Williamsburg and the 20 year old’s performance on the field hockey team has been nothing short of phenomenal.
A field hockey player since age 5, Pippin showed an early aptitude for the sport in her hometown of Mittagong, a town of about 8,000 located about 80 miles from Sydney in the state of New South Wales. Her talent earned her a spot at the New South Wales Institute of Sport Academy every year from 2008 through 2012. She represented her state in competition against field hockey teams from other Australian states through high school. One of her teammates was Emma Clifton ’15, from the town of Loomberah six hours away, who graduated from high school and came to William & Mary to play field hockey.
The two kept in touch.
It didn’t hurt either that the William & Mary field hockey team’s associate coach, Tess Ellis, is a fellow Aussie who’d been a member of the Australian National Indoor Team for eight years.
Emma got Pippin in touch with coach Ellis along with head coach Peel Hawthorne ’80. When coach Ellis made a trip home, she visited Pippin and her parents.
“It kind of got me on board for William & Mary,” recalled Pippin, who is the first Aboriginal student to attend the College. “I didn’t come to William & Mary for an official visit, so it was a bit of a wild decision I guess,” said Pippin. “But it worked out very well, I love our team, and I’m really enjoying it.”
During her first year, Pippin won the honor of Offensive MVP after leading the team with 22 points, — the most points for a William & Mary freshman since 1980. Pippin also was named to the Colonial Athletic Association’s All-Rookie Team and was named All-State second team by the Virginia Sports Information Directors.
Pippin said she wouldn’t have considered the College if it hadn’t been for a scholarship.
“William & Mary wouldn’t have been an option for me because of the expenses. It would have been pretty expensive to come over. I would have stayed and studied in Australia. But when the chance to play and study at William & Mary presented itself, I thought I should take it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.
Annual gifts to the Tribe Club have a major impact on the lives of student-athletes like Pippin, who understand and appreciate the support and the education they receive. In June 2013, the NCAA honored the William & Mary Field Hockey Team and five other athletic squads at the College with its Public Recognition Award for strong academics. The NCAA looked at the teams’ academic performance based on academic eligibility, retention and graduation rate of student-athletes. Winners of the award had to finish in the top 10 percent of the national average for the sport.
“I remember looking on the William & Mary website and coach Ellis telling me that it really is a Tribe,” said Pippin. “But I don’t think you really understand what that means until you get here.”