Former defender for the Utah Valley women’s soccer team, Hannah Bruce, is no stranger to accolades. Bruce was recognized as the Western Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, and earned All-WAC honors her final three years at UVU. She played more than 5,000 minutes across 64 games for the Wolverines. For all of her success on the pitch, Bruce is equally successful — if not more so — in the classroom.
Bruce graduated from UVU last winter with a degree in psychology — boasting an impressive 4.00 grade point average. She represented the WAC at the 2019 NCAA Leadership Forum and was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University. Now, Bruce is one of 161 nominees for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year award, which recognizes “graduating female college athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.”
For some collegiate athletes, balancing the rigors of college coursework with the travel and training required can be difficult, but Bruce said she never felt she needed to compromise either pursuit.
“I enjoy school. I like working hard,” she said. “Compared to winning — getting a game winning goal or playing in a big match — my academics were the same way. It sounds so cheesy, but if I work hard on a test or a paper and spend all that time learning and educating myself, and then I get 96% on a big exam or a high grade on a paper, I would say that’s equally satisfying.”
“I just love the feeling I get when I’m learning. Aside from athletics, I think of what I can do in the workforce and the research that I can do,” said Bruce.
Bruce is currently attending graduate school at Oxford, where she is studying clinical therapeutic neuroscience and neurodevelopmental disorders.
“Before getting into Oxford, I applied for law school and got into a few,” Bruce said. “I’ve also been interested in continuing to work with athletes. The NCAA has a sports science institute, I think it would be cool to do research there.”
While pursuing further education, Bruce continues to chase her career as an athlete as well. She signed a professional contract with Puerto Rico Sol, and spent the early part of 2020 with the team before their season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she is open to play for professional teams in the United Kingdom while working through a graduate program. A native of Nova Scotia, Bruce said she’s still training and “would love the opportunity to be invited to Team Canada camp” after she graduates.
Bruce said UVU and the athletic department were instrumental in helping her achieve her academic goals.
“I don’t know what it’s like at other institutions, but UVU is amazing,” she said. “I know they care about our education. We have study halls in our athletic buildings for our student-athletes. I also feel like professors are really understanding of our schedules and they did what they could to help us out. I think UVU does a great job of assisting the athletes as students, and the student-athletes are doing more than just playing their sport.”
After the WAC chose to postpone all 2020 fall sports — including women’s soccer — Bruce said she understands how difficult this must be for athletes.
“I would be devastated if I was still part of the program,” Bruce said. “Having the offseason in spring is already awful enough. The week after the season ends is nice but after that everyone is ready to get going again. I can’t imagine having to wait another season. I think the safety of the athletes — but also the safety of everyone else on campus — makes it hard to be bothered by the decision to cancel. I think it was the right decision but I understand how devastating it would be for so many athletes.”
The last six months have been difficult for everyone, including Bruce, but she said her time as an athlete has helped her adapt to these tumultuous times — and she hopes other athletes can find the same motivation to move forward.
“We’re athletes,” she said. “We’re built and bred to get through tough times and get past these things. This is an opportunity to get better.”
From the current field of 161 nominees, the NCAA will cut it down to 30 before announcing the NCAA Woman of the Year later this fall.
(Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics)
Bridger Beal-Cvetko is a junior at Utah Valley University where he is studying journalism. He has been with The Review since 2019, where he has covered the UVU men’s basketball team and the softball team during his time as Sports Editor. Bridger has also worked as a producer for ESPN 960 AM. Aside from sports, Bridger is an ardent cinephile, and loves reading fantasy and science fiction novels.