Janne Grove is all business
Those were the words North Carolina coach Karen Shelton remembers hearing from admissions when inquiring about the prospect of a student playing field hockey while pursuing an MBA full time. It's a daunting undertaking anywhere, but then consider that the Tar Heels are among the elite programs in the sport, and that the Kenan-Flagler School of Business in Chapel Hill ranks among the nation's best.
Now consider Janne Grove, and marvel at how seamless she's made it all look. The native of Hamburg, Germany, transitions regularly as the youngest in her macroeconomics and marketing classes to the oldest on a field hockey team that has reached the final four and is vying for its seventh national championship.
The Tar Heels (18-5) meet Connecticut (19-4) in a semifinal game Friday at 4:45 p.m. ET in Norfolk, Va. North Carolina, which last won the NCAA title in 2009, has been runner-up the past three years. The winner advances to Sunday's national championship against Maryland or Duke.
Grove, a starting defender, has more to worry about than just a Huskies attack that has outshot its opponents 439-195 this year. She's facing deadlines with her global analysis of the Brazilian economy, one reason her laptop will be in tow this weekend.
"She'll leave practice, but unlike everybody else who's in sweats, she's in her business suit and pumps," Shelton said.
A sharp dresser by nature, Grove explains what could await inside one of the Kenan-Flagler classrooms.
"Some days employees from Coca-Cola might come to class and you have to spontaneously give a presentation," she said. "You always have to be ready for things like that in business school."
In Shelton's 33 years of coaching, she's never had a graduate student on the team. The younger sister of professional soccer player Tillman Grove, Janne (pronounced YAHN-uh) starred on Germany's U18 and U21 national field hockey teams. With limited opportunity in that country, she turned to the United States when considering graduate study.
"We don't have college sports in Germany," Grove said. "When I found out they had that here, I had to find out what that meant."
Grove relied on Google to narrow her choices, but her eligibility was limited to one year, given her graduation from Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in three years. What deterred some collegiate coaches didn't bother Shelton, who whisked Grove in for an official visit.
Grove so impressed the admissions committee that she was accepted to a program that is 78 percent male and generally considers students only with five years of work experience. The average age of accepted students is 28. Grove, 23, is the youngest in the school and was admitted directly from her undergraduate work.
"She interviewed and the admissions committee found she was a smart, savvy, well-put-together young woman," Shelton said.
The distance from home didn't deter Grove, who fell in love with the campus. "UNC had the perfect combination," she said.
Grove was an easy fit for the Tar Heels, who had lost 11 players from 2012's 23-2 team. Among them was Caitlin Van Sickle, whose decorated résumé included four years of starting every game as a back for the Tar Heels. Shelton knew adding a defender with Grove's experience would immediately elevate North Carolina, and Grove hasn't disappointed.
"I've never seen her flustered," Shelton said. "She's calm under pressure. She doesn't have a lot of flash, but we don't need that. We need her to be steady, and that's what she's done so well. She never loses composure, and that's what is most striking to me."
Grove doesn't rattle. When asked what does unnerve her, she dismisses everything from aggressive strikers to hairy spiders to turbulence on an airplane.
"Good question," she said. "Now, I do freak out when my dad eats and makes noises with his tooth…"
No surprise that she takes her 20-credit academic load in stride, keeping on top by rarely procrastinating and often taking advantage of study groups. All business classes are also broadcast online, so the three days of classes she'll miss this week for the tournament are a mouse click away.
And yes, she naps. "The power nap," Grove corrects. She lists napping as her favorite hobby on her team bio, but she has time only for quick shuteye sessions these days.
"I can work more efficiently if I have a little break," said Grove, who is planning for a future in sports marketing. "That's where the hockey comes in, too. I get out of class, get a workout and fresh air, and get ready to start more schoolwork."
It's a load that will lighten when field hockey concludes after the final four. Though Grove has been part of the Carolina story for only a few months, she would love to end it the right way, as part of the program's first national championship since 2009.
"It's hard to compare to a German championship," she said. "I don't know if you can say one is better than the other, but it would be something I'd be really proud of. It would be a huge accomplishment."