Freshman striker Lilly Hengerer and freshmen midfielder Meghen Hengerer — twins from Bedminster, N.J. — were two of Virginia’s most impressive recruits in its latest freshmen class. They’ve already made their presence known on the team — both have played in all six games so far and Meghen even assisted another teammate in scoring a goal against a defending national champion North Carolina team.
Lilly and Meghen were born in New Jersey, but their family moved to Galway, Ireland when they were just 10 years old. They spent five years living there and it was during this time they picked up the stick and began playing field hockey — Meghen in sixth grade and Lilly in seventh.
“Our older sister played and … that was the sport that all the girls played [in Ireland],” Meghen said. “And I liked the idea of wearing a skirt while we played.”
Although the cute skirts were definitely an incentive to play field hockey, both Lilly and Meghen also happened to be excellent athletes. In Ireland, they played for the Irish U16 national field hockey team and the Irish U15 girl’s soccer team, contributing a lot to both teams and earning the opportunity to participate in multiple international tournaments.
When the twins moved back to New Jersey in their sophomore year of high school, they truly dedicated themselves to field hockey and began having conversations with college coaches about their future. Contrary to popular belief, though, Lilly and Meghen were not advertising themselves as a package deal.
“We really did it separately,” Lilly said. “We didn’t talk about the process much, and even when we both started talking to U.Va., it was separate.”
Lilly and Meghen received their offers and committed to Virginia at the end of their sophomore year. However, before coming to Charlottesville, they continued to shine on their high school team. Lilly scored 53 goals with 40 assists throughout her high school career, and Meghen scored 37 goals with 30 assists. Both of them also earned Scholar-Athlete distinctions three times.
For them, Virginia was the right choice as the University boasts strong athletics and academics as well as a very supportive community — something the twins were accustomed to in their personal lives.
Lilly and Meghen’s family — both immediate and extended — is very close. They have done a lot together — including two major international moves and most recently, weekly Friday pizza nights. Every Friday during the COVID-19 pandemic, members of their immediate and extended family would convene outside and sit on opposite sides of somebody’s driveway and eat pizza together.
“It was nice that we still got to spend time with them and be safe,” Lilly said.
Though they can’t join the rest of the Hengerers for Friday night pizza anymore, Lilly and Meghen are making new memories with their friends and teammates in Charlottesville.
When they first arrived at the University over two months ago, Lilly and Meghen got to live with their teammates and they spent a lot of time getting to know one another. Since then, they have become even more immersed in the University community while also exploring life at college — at least as much as they can during the pandemic.
Given the current situation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Lilly and Meghen have been taking the necessary precautions at home, which actually made their adjustment a bit smoother.
“I didn’t know what to expect from the season anyways,” Lilly said. “But [coronavirus] definitely played a little bit into my nerves.”
Despite being a bit nervous about COVID-19 — and needing to adjust to the sheer intensity of Division I field hockey — Lilly and Meghen have both handled the transition with poise and composure.
“They came ready to play,” Coach Michele Madison said after a game earlier this season.
This has been true from the start. The Hengerers have both appeared in the starting lineup from early on — Lilly started in the team’s season-opener and Meghen joined her in the lineup in the second game. Both girls have also made some impressive shots at the goal and proved their athleticism on the turf.
As the unique fall season progresses, Lilly and Meghen are looking forward to getting closer to their teammates and excited at the prospect of the team winning an ACC championship for the first time since 2016.
With their infectious smiles and incredible talent, Lilly and Meghen will continue to add value to the field hockey team over the course of the next four years — all while wearing the skirts that they first fell in love with years ago.