By Patrick Shatkus
VILLANOVA, Pa. - As the Villanova field hockey team walked from the locker room to the field on a cool summer evening in Fairfield, Connecticut for the regular season opener in late August, the starting goaltending spot was still up in the air. After starting the second half of a scrimmage a week prior at Temple, Wildcat freshman Jordyn Clipstone earned her first career start on that Friday night in Connecticut. She didn't have time to call her family to let them know nor would she have been able to since it was already 1 a.m. on the other side of the world where she grew up. "With the time difference it was a bit difficult to call after the game, but I Skyped with my family the next day."
Clipstone was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in the south-central part of Africa, over 10,000 kilometers away from where she currently resides in Villanova, Pa. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country bordering South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia, which is separated from Zimbabwe by the Victoria Falls, the largest continuous sheet falling water in the world. "I grew up for most of my life in Harare," the freshman said, stating that her parents, David and Kim, and her brother, Benjamin, moved to the capital of Zimbabwe, with a current population just under 1.5 million, when she was three years old.
Clipstone attended primary, junior and high school in Harare before coming over to the states for the first time when she arrived at Villanova with her mom in August. "I'm so glad I chose here," she said, talking about the beautiful campus offered at Villanova. "It is literally a miracle though because I would have had no idea until I arrived what is was actually going to be like."
It was at junior school where she developed a love for hockey goaltending. "It wasn't quite the same hockey," Clipstone said of the hockey played in the United States versus Zimbabwe. "But it was similar and then in grade seven, my last year of junior school, I decided to be a hockey goalie at tryouts and that stuck," Clipstone said.
At the private schools she attended in Zimbabwe, playing sports are a requirement for each of the three terms in the school year. Clipstone developed a love for water polo, swimming and cross country this way and in the winter, she chose field hockey over soccer, both national sports in Zimbabwe. And at the age of 12 in grade seven, she found her natural position in the cage, where she has now started the first six matchups for the Wildcats this season.
When Clipstone started looking to apply for her undergraduate education, she made lists: one for academic schools and one for field hockey schools. She started her search in Australia and in the U.K., looking for schools with veterinary programs, of which she found 14, seven in each area. When referring to those places, Clipstone said people often guess her accent is either Australian or British. "It's quite funny because if I went to Australia they would say that I have a British accent but when I'm in the U.K. they say I have an Australian accent."
If she attended school in Australia or the U.K., she would have had to play on a club team to play competitively. She knew that field hockey was still in her future, and playing field hockey at a high level. So she started to look at Division I schools with field hockey programs in the United States, which also happens to offer a lot more vet programs. Villanova, with such a unique name, stood out in both of her lists, ranking high atop her academic requirements she sought to fulfill to become a veterinarian. She reached out to head coach Joanie Milhous and her coaching staff and from there things fell into place, Clipstone said. "The standard for field hockey in America is a lot better than at home. We play on grass at home, so it's a stagnant game and keeps getting broken up because the ball doesn't go straight. The ball moves faster here and it's a lot more predictable for me as a keeper. It makes my game a bit easier because the ball is not going to suddenly shoot up."
At Villanova, the freshman seeks a major in biology. "I want to be a wildlife vet somewhere in Africa, if not Zimbabwe," Clipstone said of her future career goals. At the Hellenic Academy in Harare, where she attended high school, Clipstone prepped for the rigorous academic standards of college, eventually what turned into Villanova, by taking A-Level classes, based on the Cambridge system, similar to A.P. courses in the United States. After taking six there and transferring three over to Villanova, she hopes the extra time will guide her course of studies to a minor degree as well.
The transition for her to America is easy after growing up in a third-world country. "It's an upgrade for me because I am coming to a place where everything works. At home [in Harare], we have the electronics and everything, but if there is no electricity then it doesn't matter."
Speaking of electricity and technology, Clipstone relies on it for communication with her family and friends. She often uses Skype, a video-chatting and instant-messaging service, to stay in contact with her mom, dad, brother and other relatives back in Zimbabwe. She also uses WhatsApp, a cross-platform mobile messaging app for smartphones, to stay in touch with her high school friends, some of which came over to the U.S. for school at places like Harvard and Lehigh, and others to Australia, South Africa and the U.K. Just like off the field, Clipstone says she still has so much she wants to improve on the field, but right now, her strongest point would be communication because she is a very vocal person.
The Villanova team recently traveled up to New York City for a matchup against Columbia on Sat., Sept. 13, the only game of that weekend. Clipstone smiled when talking about the cities and states she has been able to travel with the team, visiting all those places for the first time. Her first year in America will surely be adventure for her, but one thing is certain, she has found a home at Villanova.