Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics Communications
Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics Communications
Brian Westerholt

Spotlight: Valerie Dahmen

Senior goalkeeper Valerie Dahmen has solidified herself as a leader on and off the field for the Wake Forest field hockey team, and has led the Deacons to the No. 7 ranking in the country midway through the season. Dahmen has earned two ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors this season, and will be looking to win her second consecutive ACC Championship this fall.  

What made you choose Wake Forest?

I think it was the challenge of being on a top-10 program and having a challenging academic institution. I visited a couple of schools before I committed, and I liked Wake the most.

Why field hockey?

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It’s sort of the national sport at home, besides soccer. I grew up doing it, started when I was in my diapers, and then I switched to goalkeeping when I was about seven or eight. I’m not athletic enough for the other positions [Laughs].

What made you choose goalie?

I have very good reactions, so it came very naturally for me. I like the isolation of the position, the challenge and the fact that you can keep your team in the game even if everything is against you. I love making the last-minute saves. I think the responsibility of it is something that you have to grow into, but if you’ve been exposed to it from a young age, you get used to it.

There’s a stigma in soccer that the goalies are always the weird ones. Does that translate to field hockey?

It’s the same stigma in field hockey [laughs]. When I got recruited actually, I walked into the office, and Jen [the receptionist] said, “You’re not the goalie.” I asked why, and she said, “You’re too normal!” So I guess we have the same stigma, but I guess I don’t really live up to it, so sorry about that [laughs].

What’s it like being a student-athlete at such a challenging school?

It’s definitely challenging, but I was exposed to it at an early age at home, so it’s very similar. Doing workouts in the morning, going to school and doing more workouts at night, as well as coaching was a lot of responsibility. It’s challenging, but I don’t think it’s anything that can’t be done.

How have you improved on and off the field throughout your Wake Forest career?

Off the field, I’ve become more humble.

I’ve acknowledged my limitations and worked on my weaknesses. On the field, my leadership has grown over the last four years. The role that I’ve taken on is more of a leadership role than just a goalkeeper, and I think that’s where the biggest growth has come from.

What is the best part of your game, and what parts are you always trying to improve on?

The best part of my game is probably penalty corners and covering those. I love my stick, and everything that involves my stick on the field. I make most of my saves with my stick, and that’s where my weakness comes in as well. I always need to work to stay on my feet.

How has Coach Averill played a role in your development as a person and as a field hockey player?

I think she has been a great mentor for me. I’ve always played under a male coach, so it’s been very different to be coached by a woman. She takes an interest in your personal life as well, so instead of just being a coach, she also kind of becomes a guardian figure in your life. She’s influenced my life tremendously and I’m very thankful for that.

What are some differences between playing in America and at home in Germany?

The crowd is a lot bigger at home in Germany.

We’re playing in front of parents here, but at home it’s a spectacle and everybody comes out. Other than that, the playing at home is much more skill-based, while America is focused on fitness and strength.

What’s your most treasured moment as a Deacon?

Winning the ACC Championship last year. That was one for the books.

What are your thought’s on the team this season, sitting at No. 7 in the country?

We lost our best player last season, Anna Kozniuk, so that was a big change for us. We’re a young team, and I think we started off very well. I think a lot of people underestimated us, and we were sitting pretty comfortable there. We definitely got shown the areas that we have to work on this past weekend (against Syracuse), so I think we can only move up from here. I think we have a great team and that Syracuse will see us again in the ACC Championship.

What are your plans for after Wake Forest?

I’m currently applying for the Wake Forest Business School, but I’m also looking into Law School and being a Grad assistant. I’m trying to stay in America, but I’m debating to go home and play professionally. I can’t imagine my life without field hockey.

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