The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa field hockey’s Dionne van Aalsum effortlessly transitions into collegiate play

The freshman from the Netherlands leads the country with 21 goals.
Carly Schrum
Vermont forward Alina Gerke (28) races with the ball down the field while Iowa midfielder Dionne van Aalsum chases her during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Grant Field in Iowa City on Sept. 15, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Catamounts 5-0.

First-year Dionne van Aalsum is having one of the best seasons in all of field hockey.

The forward leads the nation with 21 goals. She also has scored multiple goals in every single contest this season, as well as three hat tricks.

Before van Aalsum made a name for herself in the Big Ten, she was thriving on the hockey pitch from across the Atlantic Ocean.

Hailing from Castricum, Netherlands, field hockey has always been a part of her life. What started as a hobby has turned into a passion for van Aalsum.

“I started young and really liked it from the beginning,” van Aalsum said. “It started for me as like a fun thing to do. It’s still something I get a lot of energy from. Doing it puts a smile on my face, and enjoying it is my greatest power.”

Field hockey is different in the Netherlands; in the United States, people who are van Aalsum’s age play at the collegiate level. In the Netherlands, it’s based on club teams, not colleges.

In the 2022-23 season, van Aalsum played for the highest youth league team with U18. She was named captain and helped lead her team to the indoor championship of North Netherlands.

After the season, van Aalsum was contacted about playing field hockey at the collegiate level, and she decided to pursue combining an education with the sport.

“Accounts contacted me on Instagram asking me if I was interested in combining studying with playing field hockey in the states,” van Aalsum said. “I thought that was something I wanted to do so I started working with them. They made a video of highlights for me and put it together.”

Assistant coach Michael Boal got his hands on the tape and knew right away that her talents needed to be a part of the Hawkeye program.

“Her size, her hockey IQ, her skill over the ball, and she just has great hands and great elimination,” Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci said of what impressed her about van Aalsum. “Michael Boal, our associate head coach, was the one who got in contact with her first and was able to see her in person.”

The staff then prepared for a visit from van Aalsum and the rest was history.

“They were the only university that I came for a visit when I got here,” van Aalsum said. “I came here, and the girls and the coaches were great. I knew the level of field hockey was good. With all that together, it has felt like a second family.”

Moving from European club competition to one of the premiere conferences in collegiate hockey was a smooth transition for van Aalsum. From the talent van Aalsum has seen overseas, no competition has phased her so far.

“The level of hockey in the Netherlands is outstanding, so she has seen really high levels of hockey,” Cellucci said. “I think the difference here is the time she spends on the field. She’s on the field for a lot of minutes, and that’s really different from where they play over in Europe.”

The hardest part for van Aalsum hasn’t been the shift in competition but the transition from living in one country to another. “The first few weeks were kind of hard with getting to know the team and how everything works here,” van Aalsum said. “Knowing there is a seven-hour time difference and getting used to that also.”

Luckily for van Aalsum, Iowa already has several international players who can relate to her overseas move.

“The nice thing is we have a couple of international athletes on our team who are kind of seasoned,” Cellucci said. “Our team does a great job of bringing people in and making sure they feel a part of the family.”

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About the Contributors
Jake Olson, Sports Reporter
Email: [email protected] Jake Olson is a Sports Reporter for The Daily Iowan. In his three years with the paper, he has covered everything from rowing to basketball. He is studying journalism and mass communication with a minor in sports and rec management.
Carly Schrum
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.