As a grade-school student in 2003, Colby Hussong would run around outside the Hofstra field shagging balls for the Rider University field hockey team that her mother, Lori, served as head coach, and father, Dan served as assistant coach.
Who would have guessed that just a little more than a decade later that same Colby Hussong would be running around on the field at the Hofstra Field Hockey Stadium on a regular basis as a midfielder for the Pride Field Hockey team. Not only has she been a player, she has served as a two-year captain for the Pride. But the road was anything but direct from Central Jersey to Hempstead.
Hussong, a native of Princeton Junction, New Jersey, might have been predestined to be a team captain by pure genetics. Her mother was a 1983 NCAA All-American at Trenton State, played on two national championship teams, earned two NCAA All-Tournament Team honors and was named to the NCAA All-Decade team for the 1980s. Her father was a two-time captain for the Brockport State basketball team in the 1970s and was named the scholastic Coach of the Decade in 1999 by the Princeton Packet.
While her mom and dad did their best not to push Colby or her four siblings toward any one sport, Colby was exposed to field hockey at a young age and also played lacrosse, softball and basketball. “She was fairly successful in everything that she did,” her proud mother stated.
“I played basketball until the eighth grade but by then I was playing club hockey and then in the US Field Hockey Futures program and had a lot of extra traveling, in addition to playing for my high school team. So that would take up a lot of my time. I didn’t have time for basketball any longer,” Hussong said.
But Hussong showed the most burgeoning talent in field hockey. “I’ve been around field hockey my whole life,” Colby said. “When I was two, I had this little field hockey stick. So I think my mom wanted me to play. But I played other sports as well. It was my choice to pursue field hockey. I love field hockey. I also love lacrosse but I decided to put all my pennies into field hockey as I got older.”
She did exactly that. She played on a highly successful club team (Jersey Intensity), was going to national tournaments and showcases, and, let’s not forget, racking up scholastic honors at West Windson-Plainsboro High School South. Three times she was named a Central Jersey Coaches Association All-Star. Four all-county honors, three all-area and all-Colonial Valley Conference first team selections and two CVC Offensive Player of the Year Awards would also wind up in the trophy case. Hussong would rack up 68 goals and 56 assists during her high school career as well as being a National Honor Society member.
If that wasn’t enough, Colby was making a name for herself in the Futures program, playing on U14 gold medal-winning teams in 2008 and 2009 and medal-winning U16 teams in 2010 and 2011. All this under the proud eyes of mom and dad.
“She was on a lot of coaches radar because she was playing in all these national tournaments with her club team and they were sending out good kids to a lot of good schools,” Dan Hussong said. “I think a lot of coaches assumed that Colby was going to play for Lori and Dan at Rider. So some coaches stood at an arm’s length. But that was never in the mix. She loved hanging around Rider but she didn’t want to go to school there. She wanted to strike out on her own.”
It was her junior year at West Windsor-Plainsboro, and Columbia University and Miami (OH) University among others liked what they saw in Colby. The Ivy League waits until the second semester of a student’s senior year for admission acceptance letters. Miami coach Inako Puzo offered Hussong a scholarship package in her junior year that Colby accepted.
“Colby visited Miami during her junior year and enjoyed the coaching staff and the campus and they gave her a pretty good package,” Lori Hussong said. “For me as a parent, I was concerned that her decision was too early and she should explore all her options. She did not really consider that home was nine hours away by car and you just can’t come home when you feel like it.”
“She really liked Inako’s (Puzo) coaching style and had a good interest in the school,” Dan Hussong said.
Colby made the decision and it was off to Ohio for the girl who cherishes her family above all else. She played in 22 games as a freshman and was a member of the Red Hawks 2013 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship team. But her mother’s initial feelings about the distance proved correct.
“I loved my experience at Miami and Coach Puzo is an awesome coach who I learned so much from,” Colby said. “But it was definitely too far from home for me. I missed my mom and dad, and family so much. I didn’t realize how important they were to me and my game. I was always looking for them after games.”
“Some of my fondest field hockey memories are centered around all the special moments of time spent together with them (mom and dad) traveling to my club practices and tournaments and of always having them cheering me on the sidelines during my high school career,” Colby explained. “It’s been hard not having them at my games the past four years because of their own schedules. But they always make an effort to watch my games live or by replay online and keep track of how my team is doing through the live stats. Every year they always try to come out and watch as many games as possible. If they aren’t there, I know they are always with me in spirit.”
After getting a gracious release from Miami, the next decision for Colby would be where she would go. When asked if she had some hope that Colby would return and play at Rider, Lori, the Broncs head field hockey coach since 2000, quickly answered, “Um, yeah” with a laugh. “Rider was her first and only option at the time,” Lori said. “We only live five minutes from Rider but I think the biggest issue was socially. It would have been our (Lori and Dan) dream for her to come back and play for us but we’re happy where she landed.”
“I didn’t want to go to Rider because I was around it my whole life,” Colby said. “I think if I went to Rider there could have been some conflict. I didn’t want people thinking that I was getting special treatment. I know that I wouldn’t get special treatment as a player from my mom. I know she would love me more. She has to love me more than the other players. I’m her daughter (giggling).”
Looking at the many schools within driving distance of home, and having an in-house connection in Rider player Sandra Penas, whose younger sister Marta played for Hofstra, Colby and family looked into one of her many sideline playgrounds as a youth.
“Colby plays like a European and Hofstra had some on their team,” Dan Hussong said. “We have played Hofstra for years and we have always thought the world of Kathy (De Angelis) and April (Cornell). So when she mentioned Hofstra we thought it might be a good place for her. She took a visit to Hofstra and felt very comfortable right off the bat. We thought Hofstra looked like it would be a good situation for her. It turned out to be a great one.”
“I knew before I visited that I liked Hofstra and when I got here I knew for sure that I wanted to come,” Colby said. “I came into Hofstra with a really big class and that helped with the transition. Everyone was so welcoming. I didn’t have a lot of time to choose then but I love it at Hofstra. I felt that Hofstra had a lot to offer academically and because of its proximity to the city.”
Colby added, “It is also the perfect distance from home and I can go home whenever I want to see my family.” Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Colby started all 19 games in her first year-her sophomore year-at Hofstra in 2014 and recorded four assists. Her leadership ability stood out with the Pride coaching staff. The next season, she was selected a Hofstra captain…as a junior. “As coaches, we know how important captains are,” Dan Hussong said. “Lori and I were really impressed that she was named captain as a junior. It is a great accolade.”
“I was surprised being selected a team captain as a junior,” Colby stated. “It was a really great honor. It wasn’t the first time that I served as captain but it was the first in college. I became more aware of what I was doing and trying to become a strong leader. I grew into it and learned from my mistakes. It’s definitely been a great experience and made me grow as a player, too.”
Colby would record career-highs of six goals and five assists in 2015. She was selected as a team co-captain, along with senior classmate Emily Gallagher, for the 2016 season as well. Colby has started all nine games for the Pride this season as her collegiate career enters its final two months.
“Colby has always been a care-giver,” Lori Hussong said. “I think that helps her with her captainship. She likes to take care of people before she takes care of herself. Watching her grow up, she acted more like a mom to her siblings than a sister. That’s probably her best attribute-she cares about people. She’s a kind, compassionate and make-you-proud kind of girl.”
2016 Hofstra co-captain Emily Gallagher agrees with Coach Hussong. “She gets along with everyone and that’s such a hard thing to do with such a big team,” Gallagher says. “There is not one person on the team who doesn’t like and look up to her. That’s what makes her a good captain. She always has positive energy. She’s a great leader altogether.”
Colby’s influence is also felt by younger players like sophomore Madison Sauve. “Colby is very supportive, very friendly and a very good teammate and captain,” Sauve said. “She has made me a lot more confident in my game.”
When forced to identify her strongest attribute, Colby commented, “I’m caring. I am a lot like my mom in that way. I am always concerned with how other people feel. This year, we have a travel team and some players might be a little down. It’s my job to pick them up and keep everyone together.”
“Being named a captain for two years requires a tremendous amount of responsibility and leadership,” Hofstra Head Field Hockey Coach Kathy De Angelis says. “Colby has been an outstanding leader. She is highly respected by her peers as well as by the athletic administration. I could not have asked for a better leader and role model. It has been my privilege to be Colby’s coach.”
While Colby’s mom and dad are elated with her success at Hofstra, both academically and athletically, it has come at a cost to Rider. Specifically, three losses in the three games when mother and father have faced their daughter and the Pride. “I think everyone else has been more excited about those games than me and my parents,” Colby said. “I guess you don’t see it very often. When you walk on to the field you try to put that aside and stay focused on the game.” Colby added with a laugh, “But it has been nice to have the family bragging rights to hold over their heads for the last three years.”
As her college field hockey career winds down, Colby’s professional career is coming into focus. Following an internship at Grant Thornton LLP, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms, earlier this year in Manhattan, Colby was offered and accepted a position with the company that has more than 42,000 employees in 120 countries following graduation.
She recently scheduled prep tests for the four parts of the CPA exams with hopes of certification in the late spring or summer before she starts work. “I really liked my internship at Grant Thornton and I look forward to going to work for them next year,” Colby stated. “I can see myself working there for a long time.”
“I feel like Hofstra has given me the world,” Colby says. “I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of an amazing field hockey family at Hofstra. I’ve made such great friends from all around the country and around the world and feel so thankful to have had the honor and privilege to be coached by coaches who truly care about us as players but more importantly as people. I am getting an awesome job because of my education and the on-campus recruiting program. I love the school.”
While Colby has chosen the business of accounting to pursue rather than the family business of coaching, she does anticipate playing in the occasional field hockey pick-up game around Manhattan as well as alumni games. “I definitely do not want to put my stick down yet.”
One thing is fairly certain though. Wherever she works or plays, it will be relatively close to home.
Feature written by Jim Sheehan, Hofstra University Office of Athletic Communications