Sandra Hill is a senior defender for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. That is nearly 8,000 miles away from her hometown: Canberra, Australia. How did she end up at GCU? Hill told BGN, “GCU just has the coolest campus and atmosphere. It’s a campus you visit once and just know it’s where you should be.”
She added, “The biggest culture shock was the fact that everything is drive thru!! We have Maccas (McDonald’s) and KFC as our main fast food, but having a drive thru pharmacy and bank is a bit much.”
While it may have taken a moment to adjust to the amount of drive-thru venues in Phoenix, Hill hit the ground running in her NCAA soccer career. She played in 14 matches as a freshman and registered one assist. Then, her sophomore season in 2018 saw her appear in 15 matches and make nine starts. She scored her first NCAA goal in the WAC Tournament and was a WAC All-Tournament team selection.
In 2019, she increased her appearances up to 16 and her starts to 12, playing the most minutes on the team in conference action. This season, she’s started in seven of her ten appearances and picked up an assist in the opener vs. Arizona.
As a team, the 2021 campaign hasn’t gone according to plan as the Lopes carry a 5-8 record. “We’ve done a lot of evolving this season and we haven’t been able to show that yet which is the frustrating part of soccer,” Hill said. “While It’s definitely a really tough stretch for us, I know this won’t define who we truly are as individuals and as a team. We’ve got a lot of things we need to go back to the drawing board for but I have faith that our momentum will carry us into the WAC (Tournament).”
While she’s trying to help lead the team to some success on the pitch, Sandra is also working through balancing the responsibilities of being a student-athlete. “Time management really does become your best friend and juggling hours of practice, games, travel, social life, work, and academics can be challenging at times,” Hill explained. “It really does just come down to keeping your eyes on the prize and that is getting a college degree that many people don’t have the opportunity to do.”
That time management and focus allowed Sandra to earn a spot on the All-WAC Academic Team in 2019. “I recently just started my MBA in project management and I’m hoping it will propel me into a creative director career,” she said.
While she’s “just rolling with the punches and enjoying every second of it” this season and unsure if she’ll use the extra year of eligibility the NCAA is offering, Hill is still able to reflect on her time at GCU. She explained, “GCU has so much to offer but building relationships and connecting with the GCU community is easily the best thing to come out of my college experience. My favourite memories are because of the people I get to surround myself with!”
“In terms of moments, I’d have to say traveling with my team and being able to explore the beautiful country of America. I will have to say, some of my favorite memories were during thanksgiving so it’s most certainly my favorite holiday.”
— Chris Cissell (@CoachCissell) March 26, 2021
Comparing the food and drinks that she can get her but not at home and vice versa, Hill explained, ” Nothing beats getting free refills on drinks. That’s something Australia needs to start doing for sure. But, I hate to say it, Australia just undoubtedly has better food. That’s just a fact.”
Now that she’s been in the United States for four years now, she’s also noticed a major misconception about Australia from Americans. Sandra said, “The first thing people ask me is why Australia has the most deadly animals. I think people just assume that we wake up and there’s giant spiders, snakes, and kangaroos in our kitchens. Sometimes you’ll come across a big spider but I guarantee you that it’s in places you don’t often visit like a shed in the backyard.”
You can see GCU and their talented Australian defender in action twice this week as the Lopes host California Baptist tomorrow and Saturday. The matches can be streamed live here. After those back-to-back fixtures, the team will close the regular season at New Mexico State before the WAC Tournament begins on April 13th.