Field Hockey’s German Duo
Paula Heuser (pictured above) is the active NCAA leader in career points and goals.
ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 22, 2016) – The 3,700-plus miles separating Germany and the University at Albany have been well traveled by Paula Heuser and Maxi Primus.
The German-born student athletes joined UAlbany’s field hockey team in 2013. Since then, they’ve led the program to unprecedented heights, including back-to-back America East Championships and an NCAA Division I Final Four appearance – the first in SUNY history.
Reflecting back, it’s hard to believe both planned on returning home after their first season.
“Playing in the United States was only supposed to be a gap year – between high school and college [in Germany],” said Heuser, a native of Mönchengladbach. “At home, our universities do not have athletic departments. Field hockey and academics are separated. This was a fun opportunity for us to play, while also taking college classes.”
Luckily for Great Danes fans, those plans changed. Following a challenging first semester, Heuser and Primus decided to stay, crediting Phil Sykes and his coaching staff, the team atmosphere, and UAlbany’s academic offerings for helping with their transition to the United States.
They also had each other.
Maxi Primus (picture above) owns program records for goalie wins and shutouts.
“What made me want to stay, first of all, was Paula. I knew her as a teammate on Germany’s Under-18 National Team. At UAlbany, we stuck together which made it easier to adapt to a new culture,” said Primus, a native of Berlin. “After a few months, we started loving the combined offerings of school and athletics. Also, having tolerant coaches, teammates and academic advisors went a long way.”
The decision paid off. As sophomores in 2014, Heuser, a midfielder, scored a program-high 29 goals and 11 assists. She was named UAlbany’s first NFHCA National Player of the Year and earned the prestigious Honda Sport Award. Primus became the first Great Dane goalkeeper to earn All-American honors. Her .870 winning percentage and .80 goals against average were both national bests.
2014 was also the Final Four run. After winning the America East, UAlbany knocked off heavily-favorited Wake Forest and Maryland for the program’s first two NCAA Tournament wins. The team was defeated 1-0 by No. 3-seeded UConn in the semifinals.
“That whole tournament was such a team accomplishment,” Heuser said. “All of us worked so hard to get there. It was an amazing experience — the best of my sports career.”
UAlbany repeated as America East champs last season. Heuser became the active NCAA leader in career points (194) and career goals (80), while Primus broke program records for goalie wins (53) and shutouts (20).
Now seniors, Heuser and Primus are hoping to make one more championship run this fall. The Great Danes are picked unanimously this preseason to once again win the America East’s East Division. The team also has two additional German players on the roster this season, sophomore Frederike Helmke (Berlin) and freshmen Viola Von der Mühlen (Norderstedt).
“Our team has the potential to go far this year,” Primus said. “Our first goal is to win the conference and see where we go from there. Take it one step at a time.”
Heuser, a business administration major, is a two-time America East Scholar Athlete of the Year and was named to the 2015-16 CoSIDA Division I Academic All-America Team. Primus, a psychology major, is a three-time NFHCA All-Academic Team selection. Both said they’re exploring a return to Germany after graduation to continue their education and pursue careers in business.
Regardless of where they end up, UAlbany will always be a second home.
“This team has become family,” Heuser said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself through this experience and matured through the good and bad times. I’m proud to represent UAlbany and excited to play one more season.”
Field hockey kicks off its 2016 home campaign this Friday, Aug. 26 at 3 p.m. against Hofstra. View the team’s full schedule here.
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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.