Field Hockey: Madison announces 2023 incoming Cavalier first-years, grad transfer

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia head coach Michele Madison has announced that Mia Abello, Ria Chhina, Minnie Pollock and Emma Watchilla will join the field hockey team as freshmen for the 2023 season. Additionally, Megan Connors will join the team as a grad transfer from the University of California.

“This small class packs a big punch,” Madison said. “Four of the five competed internationally during high school on various age teams. We have one senior national team athlete, two first-team All-Americans, one 100+ goal scorer and another with 76 goals and 41 assists. All have played on championship teams. This class knows how to win. Their huge upside is driven by the passion they exude on the field.”

Mia Abello (Houston, Texas) is a member of the 2022-23 US Women’s National Team, earning a spot on the roster in July of 2022 and won gold at the 2023 Junior Pan American Cup as a member of the US Junior Women’s National Team last week in Barbados. Abello was an NFHCA First Team All-American pick in 2022, a year after earning second-team honors while playing for The Kinkaid School. Abello punctuated her prep career with a selection as the 2022 Texas/Oklahoma Max Field Hockey Player of the Year. Abello previously competed for the US Rise National Team in a four-game series against the Canadian U18 squad in 2022.

MADISON ON ABELLO: “Mia carries a big stick with a big hit. She will impact our backfield significantly. When she steps on the field, her eyes get big. She flips the on switch and doesn’t turn it off until the final whistle. Her big and small passing game is a weapon coupled with the ability to explode up the field with the ball on her stick. Her hockey IQ is beyond her years. Once she adapts to Division I and ACC hockey, she will be a force to be reckoned with.”

Ria Chhina (Chantilly, Va.) is a top 50 player in the Max Field Hockey Class of 2023. She began her prep career at Heritage High, winning a regional championship in 2019, before playing her final three years at Riverside High, racking up 76 goals and 41 assists en route to being named First Team All-Loudon County. Chhina was also a four-time selection for the All-Potomac District and the All-Virginia Region 5C teams.

MADISON ON CHHINA: “Ria is not the same player that committed two years ago. When I offered her a roster spot, she put her head down on the table, and when she looked up, she said, with tears in her eyes,  “Coach, you just made my dream come true. I will never let you down”. From that day forward, she has worked fiercely to become a dominant player on the field.  She elevated her game physically, skillfully and tactically. Getting by her will not be easy.  She is thrilled to play with former club teammate Dani Mendez-Trendler.”

Minnie Pollock (Harrogate, England) has been a member of England’s U18 and U16 Junior National Teams and was the MVP of the U18 team’s game against Belgium at the England U18 8 Nations Tournament. She helped lead teams to the U18 School National Championship and the U18 School National Indoor Championship. Pollock was among the top five goal scorers in the Women’s Indoor Premier League en route to leading her squad to a championship win.

MADISON ON POLLOCK: “Minnie adds to our depth of internationally experienced athletes. Minnie was selected quite young to represent England U18. She has been playing in the National League Division 1 since she was 14  and captained her junior team to win the England Hockey U16 National Championship 2021. Her current team will play for the National Championship on May 1. She reminds me of former Hoo Lucy Hyams with an aggressive, gritty, skilled game.”

Emma Watchilla (Kingston, Pa.) is ranked in the top 10 of the Max Field Hockey recruit rankings for the Class of 2023Br. She is a two-time First Team NFHCA All-American and a two-time Max Field Hockey First Team All-American from Wyoming Seminary. She led the Knights to three state championships from 2019-21. Watchilla is a three-time selection to the Pennsylvania All-State First Team, scoring 41 goals with 22 assists her junior season and was named to the All-USA Today Field Hockey Team her junior and senior years. She was a member of the 2020-21 US U-16 Junior National Team.

MADISON ON WATCHILLA: “We first noticed Emma’s speed with and without the ball. Then we saw her grit in the attacking circle. Saying she has a nose for the goal is an understatement, with her tallying over 100 goals in high school. Emma verbally committed on her official visit. She loved Virginia and her high school teammate Grace Parsons. She is orange and blue through and through.”

Megan Connors (San Diego, Calif.) is a grad transfer from Cal. She played midfield for three years for the Golden Bears, scoring seven goals, including three game-winners, along with five assists for a total of 19 points over 47 games. She was named to the 2021 America East All-Tournament Team and the 2019 America East All-Rookie Team, as well as being named to the America East Academic Honor Roll four times. She was a member of the U.S. U-19 Junior National Team on their 2019 Germany Tour and was on the travel roster for the US U-21 teams that played in Ireland in the 5 Nations Tournament in June of 2022. Additionally, she was a gold medalist at the 2019 Young Women’s National Championships. Prior to her time at Cal, Connors was the 2018 CIF Player of the Year, a 2018 Max FH First Team All-American, and the West/Midwest Player of the Year at Scripps Ranch High.

MADISON ON CONNORS: “The biggest challenge for us with grad transfers is admissions. Megan was on her own to get admitted to a highly-competitive commerce program, and she handled that challenge well. UVA and another distinguished commerce university were pulling out all the stops to lure Megan to attend, so we are excited to have her choose McIntyre. Megan will have two years to compete on the blue turf after playing every game in her time at Cal. She earned America East honors in her freshman season as well as being recognized for her tournament play. Megan’s speed and passion for the game will definitely find a space to excel. She was a two-year captain at Cal, so in addition to her skills on the field, I am really looking forward to the maturity and leadership she brings to our team.”