Savanna Gabriele’s childhood was filled with happy memories of hockey, some of her earliest involving watching her mother play.

Years down the track, Savanna decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps, pursuing her own hockey pathway. With 10 years of play, two premierships, representative hockey and ACU Uni games under her belt, the talented Queenslander is now making history at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina.

Savanna and her mum, Marianne, have shared their hockey experience together over the years and Savanna is appreciative of her parents support and encouragement.

“My mum used to play, so when I was a kid I was down on the sidelines watching her and decided I wanted to play. She was really excited because when I was old enough there was a possibility we could’ve played together so she kept hanging around hoping we could. We didn’t end up being able to, but she loved it anyway I think. We got to do something together and she got to teach me some things, so that was really good.

“She never got the opportunity to do something like this so that’s why she is super excited for me! Both my parents are 100% behind it,” Savanna said.

Despite receiving more than one offer for a US college position, Savanna felt an unexplainable connection with Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, a division 2 school that unveiled its inaugural field hockey team this year, with Savanna a key member of the team.

The passionate hockey talent is taking this chance with both hands and looks at her brand new hockey team as an opportunity to develop a fresh, exciting sporting environment with a new group of people.

“The school I’m going to has never had a hockey team, so I love the idea of creating our own spirit and culture.

“I had another college offer, I don’t know why but I automatically gravitated towards Belmont Abbey, it’s just one of those things I can’t explain. It just felt right,” Savanna said.

The chance to develop an original hockey team from the ground up and be a key influencer in the future of Belmont Abbey’s hockey history is what appealed to Savanna. Something that other student-athletes may consider a disadvantage, Savanna believes is one of the driving factors behind her choice to follow a pathway to the college that suited her.

“You have that chance to impart your knowledge on other people from past experiences as well. You’re going to have to learn and play with each other and build that connection. No one will be left out because I’m not fitting into an already prepared team. We’re all coming in not sure what to expect and we get to do it together and say that we’ve created this ourselves,” Savanna said positively.

Don’t let the fact that this is Belmont Abbey’s first hockey experience fool you into thinking it will be a quiet event. The passion that US college students have for their sport will be no different when hockey comes to town!

“My coach is really nice and when she mentioned that the team is new I was a bit apprehensive but when she said they’re really getting everyone involved and excited about it and she talked about the atmosphere, that kind of eased my nerves a little bit,” she said.

Savanna’s decision to challenge herself in not only a new international environment with her studies, but to also take on the construction of a brand new sporting culture reflects extremely positively on her character. Although she admits that the decision to follow this unique pathway wasn’t easy, Savanna wanted to follow her instinct to a path that felt right for her.

“I was struggling to decide where to go so I sat down and thought about when I first considered this I said I would go wherever it would take me and I’d try not to get too caught up in everything. I just sat down and said that’s where I want to go.”

Savanna certainly has a task ahead of her, but based on her drive and motivation, it’s evident that there is no better person to tackle this opportunity.