The Bucknell field hockey team has had a few “sister acts” in recent years. Two senior co-captains on the great 2014 team that captured the Patriot League regular-season title were Liz Wills and Kelsey Mucelli. Their younger sisters, Anna Wills and Amy Mucelli, were both sophomores on that team, and both were poised for stardom themselves. Today, Anna and Amy are co-captains on a team that has similar aspirations to the 2014 squad.
The Bison enter Sunday’s game at Monmouth with a 4-3 record against a very difficult schedule. The losses have come against No. 4 Penn State, No. 15 Princeton and a strong Saint Joseph’s team. The victories include a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over No. 12 Albany, a season-opening 2-0 shutout of Rutgers, and a 2-1 road win over Lehigh in the Patriot League opener last week.
Two more top-10 opponents are still on the horizon in No. 1 Syracuse and No. 9 Boston University, but the Bison have shown well thus far. Boston University, American and Lafayette, typically the three other challengers for the Patriot League title along with Bucknell, all come to Graham Field this year.
For Anna Wills, she is doing much more than trying to follow in her sister’s footsteps. She truly comes from a family of athletes. Anna’s mother, Elizabeth McCabe Wills, won an AIAW national championship with the La Salle field hockey team in 1980, and that team is enshrined in the La Salle Hall of Athletes. Anna’s older brother Brendan graduated from Bucknell in 2011 and was a member of the Bison swimming and diving team. Another brother, Frank, was a varsity swimmer at West Chester. Her grandfather played college soccer and a great-grandfather played professional baseball in the Philadelphia Athletics system.
Anna has done quite a good job forging her own legacy at Bucknell. She is in her fourth year as a starter and is now considered one of the Patriot League’s premier defenders. She earned First Team All-Patriot League honors last season, and was a member of the 2016 Preseason All-Patriot League Team. She is also a double-major in political science and film studies and has made the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll ever year so far. She was named to the Academic All-Patriot League Team in 2015.
We recently caught up with Anna to talk about her time at Bucknell so far.
BB: Sports is obviously a big deal in your family. How did you get started?
AW: It really started with my parents, because my mom played college field hockey at La Salle. I actually didn’t want to play field hockey at first. My older sister played field hockey and my brothers were swimmers, so I thought I was going to do something different. I wanted to play soccer and lacrosse, but then I ended up choosing field hockey anyway. I don’t really know why honestly. I think it was probably because I followed my sister to high school and she was playing field hockey. We started pretty young because my mom was coaching our youth team. So I started playing around second grade, which is earlier than most kids.
BB: How much of a role did Liz and Brendan play in your decision to come to Bucknell?
AW: I didn’t really know where I wanted to go to college, but by then I knew I wanted to play hockey. I had visited some D-III schools and was pretty sure I wanted to play Division I. Bucknell was perfect because I already had familiarity with the coaching staff through Liz. Even through Brendan, I had helped move him in a few times, and I thought campus was beautiful. It was one of those things where everything just worked out. They had a spot for me, and it was a school that I really wanted to go to, partially because of the family thing but also because I just liked Bucknell so much more than anywhere else I visited. And no coach matches up with Jeremy. It all worked out and I was so happy.
BB: By that point, Liz was well-established as a terrific player and a team leader. Did you feel any pressure trying to match Liz’s reputation?
AW: The first two years I played alongside her. We played different roles on the defense, so I wasn’t really intimidated or anything like that. We knew each other so well, it was really easy to play together. Sometimes you see siblings who can’t play well together because they don’t get along, but we are best friends, so it was easy for us.We are very close. We are two years apart in school, but we are only about 19 months apart in age, so we grew very close. Because our brothers are a little bit older, we always did things together.
BB: How has it been since Liz graduated?
AW: It’s been different without her here. Not just Liz, but her grade was just so influential on our team. It’s been hard to replace them, but I think we are getting there. They were so good in terms of both leadership and field hockey. Amy Mucelli’s older sister was also in that class. Liz and Kelsey were both captains together. They were so good at field hockey, and their personalities were perfectly meshed with the team. It was definitely hard for the captains last year to fill that gap, and it’s been hard for us too. But we are such a deeper team now, and we have so many different people who can step on the field and take that role, it’s been fun.
BB: Now you are playing the central defender position that Liz once played. Do people try to make comparisons?
AW: [Laughs] People ask my mom all the time, “which one is better?” Of course she would never say. I never thought I’d be playing center back, basically taking Liz’s position. But I play it differently than she did. She could just hit the ball out of the back, it was so easy for her. We are different players, so it’s been interesting. If you talk to Jeremy about it, he always talks about how different we are with how we approach the role.
BB: The 2014 season was a memorable one — 13 wins and a perfect 6-0 record in the Patriot League. Unfortunately it ended with a 2-1 loss to Boston University in a thrilling championship game, but you must have positive memories from that season?
AW: It was great. Obviously we wish we had won that last game. We only had one bad game that whole season, where we just didn’t connect. But all the other games, even that Patriot League final, we just clicked. Playing with Liz and playing with Kelsey, everything just came so easy. There would be times where I would be stuck in the corner with the ball, and I just thought, “I’ll just give it to Liz, she will figure it out.”
BB: Your mother was quite the field hockey player herself. What kind of advice does she give you about the game?
AW: She is definitely more hands-off than some other parents. If I ever need to vent about something, she’s perfect for that. She sees a lot about the game, but she also played back in the day where they used wooden sticks and there was offsides. She knows the game is completely different now. She can tell when I am upset with a game, but she won’t really tell me what to do. She knows that’s the coaches’ job.
BB: Tell us about your academic program. Have you been thinking about life after Bucknell?
AW: I’m a double-major in political science and film and media studies. I have all kinds of things I want to do. I want to make movies, but I also have been thinking about law school pretty seriously, not that I’ve studied for an LSAT or anything yet. I’m open to many things. I don’t get stressed about many things, so that’s just something that doesn’t stress me out. Field hockey and classes are my main focus right now.
BB: You also work in Bucknell’s Career Development Center. Does that give you a sense of what the future might hold?
AW: Working at the Career Development Center has really helped me know what I need to do. Half the time I’m working in the resource room, where I answer phone calls, I help with resume reviews and tell people who they need to talk to about certain things. And then the other half of it is social media and marketing. I’ve been making posters for events that they have.
BB: Now that you are a senior, how has your leadership role on the team evolved?
AW: I’ve definitely had to become more vocal. I’d say on the field I always talked quite a bit just because of the position I play, but I was more of a lead-by-example person in terms of work ethic and trying really hard all the time. I’ve definitely evolved into talking more with my teammates and putting in a choice word every now and then. That’s become part of what I do. Just saying, “Hey guys we need to pick it up.”
BB: This year you became involved with the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute. Has that helped you in your roles as team co-captain?
AW: I really enjoy it. It’s great going through it with other student-athlete leaders and getting to know how other teams operate. We’re pretty close with the women’s soccer team, so when they have problems they like to share them with us. It’s always interesting and helpful to see how other teams deal with issues.
BB: What are your thoughts about the remainder of the 2016 season?
AW: We have this team motto: Grit, Gratitude and Growth Mindset. We have definitely grown a lot. I think this is going to be a very good season. I’m very confident. It’s exciting to have Boston and American at home. Boston’s turf is completely different than ours, so we feel like we have an advantage when we play at home. Our schedule is definitely front-loaded with harder games, basically to up our pace for when league games come.
BB: Do you sense any similarities to the 2014 season at this point?
AW: It’s always hard to have every single person on the team buy into that championship mindset. My sophomore year we came the closest to that, because the younger kids were also bought in. It wasn’t just the seniors saying, “this is our last chance.” I sense that again this year. I think everyone is bought in.
BB: Thanks Anna … and good luck the rest of the year!