Talented teen hockey player Olivia Ward is from a small school in Hawke's Bay where there are only 39 girls in her entire year group.

But the size of the school community has proved little obstacle to taking a shot atthe big time.

Ward has been awarded a $360,000 hockey scholarship to attend an American university, Providence College.

Ward's full hockey scholarship will help pay her tuition of $60,000 a year plus living and study expenses at the Rhode Island college.


A recruitment agent had tapped the 17-year-old on her shoulder during a game in Hawke's Bay two years ago.

"I never thought about studying overseas until she came up to me after the game and gave me her business card," Ward said. "From that moment, I was obsessed with going to university in America and becoming a student athlete, who are like celebrities over there."

She is no stranger to the limelight.

The former sports prefect of Woodford House was selected for the Central U21 hockey team. She was also a member of the Central U18 hockey team, who were runners-up at the nationals last year.

Her long-term goal is to don the Black Sticks uniform and she hopes her international experience will help secure that.

Throughout her final year at Woodford, Ward woke up at 5.30am to Skype coaches before training and studies.

"The time difference made it difficult but I was so determined that I would get up while the rest of my family were asleep and talk to coaches for about an hour. I also made an eight-minute video montage of my games so they could see what I was like on the field."

Several Ivy leagues, including Yale and Harvard universities, approached Ward but she was unable to continue with them after falling short of their SAT benchmarks: "The SAT system is so different to the New Zealand NCEA system."

Although disappointing, the setbacks only made Ward more determined to reach her goal.

She will have access to a $100 million sports institute, a range of medical experts, private tutors for her academic studies and free sports gear, including sponsored clothing.

Ward credits her school and her parents, Ana and Matt Ward, for moulding her as an individual: "You can be good at sport and good at academics but there is a third dimension that universities are looking for and that is personality.

"Woodford has helped me develop people skills, develop values and gain confidence to put myself out there."