Kira Voigt had no idea what she was getting herself into.
The junior center forward arrived at Tallwood’s preseason field hockey practice on Aug. 15th a little nervous and even more curious. She had landed in America two days earlier, a foreign-exchange student from Germany still adjusting to a new country.
Lions coach Theresa Platte introduced the newest member of the team to the surprise of her players.
“We were all like, ‘Who’s that?’ ” Rosie O’Neal, a senior, recalled. “What is she doing here?”
Two months and 10 wins later, it’d be hard for the team to imagine the season without her.
“She has stepped in and has not missed a beat,” Platte said. “She’s pretty pivotal.”
At that first practice, the other girls welcomed Voigt and went through a round of, ‘Hi, my name is … .” Then they began one of their usual workouts — one Voigt wasn’t accustomed to.
“I came home after that first practice and thought I was going to die,” Voigt said. “It was so hot. I still had jet lag, and we ran a lot.”
The 15-year old from Munich didn’t know she would end up in Virginia Beach for her year abroad. She applied through a foreign exchange company, Youth For Understanding, in May 2014. She learned she was chosen for the United States six months later.
Voigt learned about her host family around that same time. Kristie Rotz and her family, Beach natives, volunteered. They have been hosting foreign exchange students for 16 years, sending more than 50 students to Tallwood High, where all three of the Rotzes’ children graduated.
Krisie Rotz is also currently hosting Nikola Serge, a student from Latvia who runs cross country for the Lions.
Before Voigt arrived, she told Rotz she wanted to play field hockey for the high school she’d be attending. She had been playing the sport since the age of five, when she joined a youth club team.
Her transition to the new culture was smooth. In school, she has fewer but longer classes with more homework. Her courses include Russian and Arabic language classes (she already knows French and Spanish in addition to German and English).
At home, she divvies up chores and brings a welcoming personality.
“She’s such a great team player within the family,” Rotz said. “She loves it here. We haven’t seen her have a bad day yet.”
The real transition came on the field.
Voigt (six goals, four assists this season) wasn’t used to the grass fields and humid weather. In Germany, they play on all turf and in colder weather.
She learned new field hockey phrases and changed her defensive style to match the faster tempo of the American game. And she brought with her a European finesse to the fields in Virginia Beach.
“She has great ball control and shooting style,” Platte said. “It’s like Velcro; that ball sticks to her stick.”
O’Neal praised Voigt’s stick dangling abilities and said the team has learned new techniques from watching her.
“She has a good view of the field and she keeps us moving around,” O’Neal said.
Voigt also brings a fearless attitude. While some girls may talk about an anticipated match with a rival team, Voigt stays oblivious to the hype.
“Sometimes it’s this, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s this team,’ ” Platte said. “With Kira, it’s more of a ‘Who’s Cox? I just go out and play.’ ”
The Lions are also having more fun with their play calling. They started using different German words for colors to call out different corner opportunities.
“Purple is ‘lila.’ It’s their favorite,” Voigt said, laughing. “They’re always hoping that there will be a purple corner so they can scream it. I’ve been trying to teach them more, but they can’t really pronounce the accent.”
At least her teammates are trying to improve their accents.
O’Neal recalled when the girls competed for the best imitation of Voigt hollering “Bella” for teammate Bella Bettilyon.
“She’s just really funny,” O’Neal said. “She’s cracking jokes, making everybody laugh.”
Voigt enjoys the American field hockey lifestyle — the team spirit, the closeness of her teammates and especially the long bus rides to games.
“I think that’s so American,” Voigt said, laughing. “Everybody is sitting close, dancing and singing. It’s so fun.”
At this time last year, Voigt had no idea Tallwood would be her second home. The Lions had no idea they’d be standing at an impressive 10-3 with her.
She calls the Lions her second family because her teammates were the first friends in her new chapter of life.
“They all welcomed me with open arms that first day,” Voigt said. “I’m so glad that I came here.”