Junior continues family legacy at Rutgers
Venus and Serena, Eli and Peyton, Reggie and Cheryl —athletic ability sometimes seems to run in the family.
One such analogous kinship has transpired right on the Banks in the Rutgers field hockey team.
Flashing back to 2007 when the Scarlet Knights called the BIG EAST conference home, Jenna Bull saw action in 19 games as a freshman, making starts in all but two of these contests.
Through her second year at Rutgers, the midfielder scored in 10 of 20 games, which includes three game-winning goals that put her at second-most of any player. Junior year Bull was the only returning player to start all 18 games.
After being named BIG EAST second team during her junior campaign, the Oakville, Ontario, native picked up first team honors to top off her sizzling senior year when she served as team captain. She was also a two-time MVP for Rutgers in 2009 and 2010.
This is only half of it.
Moving forward to 2012, then-freshman Alyssa Bull came to Rutgers following in her older sister’s footsteps.
While Alyssa continued on the path of success that her sister laid forth, she’s done well in making a name for herself on the team.
Bull’s impact started from the moment she stepped on Bauer field in her debut season as a Knight.
Through an explosive freshman year, the younger Bull sister earned a start in all 19 games, leading the team with seven assists and landing second in team scoring. Her breakout performance did not fail to turn heads, as Bull was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and picked up All-BIG EAST Second Team honors.
This strong momentum, however, became stifled in her sophomore season.
In the 2013 season opener against Boston College on Aug. 31, Bull suffered a season-ending ACL injury that forced her to redshirt and sidelined her for the year.
Upon making her return in 2014, Bull was adamant on making up for lost time.
After being selected as a Big Ten Player to Watch and named team captain before the start of the season, the midfielder took the field by storm, recording the game-winning goal in the Knights’ first Big Ten win in program history against Indiana.
Now in her junior year, Bull remains steadily on the projected path she’s established since leaving her home in Canada and coming to play Division I hockey the United States.
After being named a Big Ten Player to Watch and team captain for the second consecutive year, Bull has started every game this fall and leads her team offense with five assists on the season.
Such successful performances coming from the Bull family is no surprise to head coach Meredith Civico. Parallels between the sisters is easily recognizable.
“I definitely do,” Civico said when asked if she sees similarities between the Bull sisters. “I think they both play with the same energy and the same passion. I think they’re both really aggressive players — they’re impact players, you know, they make a difference out there.”
Understandably so, many choose to avoid pursuing similar opportunities as their siblings to avoid unfair comparisons. And it’s even harder when there are such big shoes to fill.
The youngest Bull sister, however, had no such qualms about coming to Rutgers.
“(Jenna) had a really great experience and I got to know some of the other girls through her and I really got to know Meredith (Civico) so I really knew what I was getting myself into by coming here,” Bull said. “A lot of the times when you go and visit schools they can play you whatever card they want and it can be a little deceiving so I knew really what I was getting myself into and it was really exciting because the girls were all really nice and the coaching was great and it was just a good atmosphere to come into.”
Bull took advantage of the unique opportunities that the young Rutgers program offered. Seeing the way that her sister thrived as a Knight made the prospect more exciting, rather than more daunting.
Though she was not close-minded to other options and offers, Bull stuck to the “R” family roots and hasn’t looked back.
“Well basically my entire life she’s kinda been my role model,” Bull said of her sister. “I’ve always really wanted to do basically what she did. I did visit other schools and looked around but it just seemed to be the best fit. I’m familiar with it and my parents really liked it as well and I didn’t really feel too much pressure. It was just the right decision. I don’t regret it at all.”
Though the Bull sisters have reached similar successes and even play the same position, they each came into Rutgers at distinct times both in the program and in the game of field hockey itself.
While Alyssa echoed her coach’s sentiments that she and Jenna share certain characteristics, she also acknowledged their individuality.
“We’re similar but also very different,” Bull said. “Both Jenna and I started playing around the same time but I grew up watching her play and I think field hockey has changed a lot over the past few years with the rule changes so it’s a little hard to say that we’re similar players but we definitely have very similar work ethics. It’s how we were kinda raised and how we’ve always been through sport — pretty competitive and hard working — so in that way we’re definitely the same.”
The intangible contributions that can’t be read on a statistics chart are often the most important. For the Bull sisters, they have and continue to provide both to the Rutgers field hockey program.
As she helps lead the team through their sophomore season in the Big Ten, Alyssa Bull looks to continue on the upward spiral she’s produced throughout her career as a Knight.
On any given day at Bauer field, her presence and enthusiasm is both inherent and permeable.
“She’s such a leader, she’s such a mature player. She understands the game and she understands what we’re trying to do as a program,” Civico said. “Her overall work rate is consistent day in and day out. She’s just in every moment and she cares so much and she has so much passion. I think her energy and her spirit is contagious. She provides such good leadership just the way she is as a person, you know, off the field and the way she plays on the field. I think people just really look up to her.”
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