Five years ago, when freshmen Ella and Bella Ganocy stepped onto Stanford’s field hockey pitch for the first time, they had never played a single field hockey game, let alone participated in a tournament.
The twins played soccer from the time they were three years old, but had never tried field hockey. However, given the opportunity to play in a tournament at Stanford, the sisters from Calabasas agreed.
“I played soccer my whole life and then I was introduced to field hockey by one of my mom’s friends, and I just went out and tried it for the first time,” said Ella, a midfielder. “I fell in love with field hockey because of the community, how kind and welcoming and positive all the people were towards me even when I was just starting and didn’t know what I was doing at all.”
In their first game, Bella scored three goals off of assists from Ella. In the second, Ella contributed three goals off of Bella’s assists. By the end of the tournament, they led the field in both goals and assists.
Years later, Ella and Bella have returned to Stanford, this time as two of eight freshmen on the field hockey team.
For the Ganocy twins, going to the same college was “a given from the start,” as they said, and they even created a joint email account for recruiting. Despite originally committing to Princeton, they ended up decommitting and choosing Stanford, weighing factors like academics and distance from their home in Los Angeles. Ella says Stanford was “the perfect choice” for both of them.
“That was the first time they ever played field hockey, on Stanford campus. They literally planted little seeds on that pitch,” said their mother, Heeshik Lee-Ganocy, who is an identical twin herself. “I was so happy for them because I think they got a great school and better weather. Stanford is going places. I hope they grow there and I hope they do great things there.”
Bella and Ella say their connection as twins extends beyond daily life to the pitch. Playing sports together their entire lives — first soccer and now field hockey — has generated a deep understanding between the pair.
“I can’t read her mind, we just think very similarly,” Bella said about her twin. “I know how she plays and what she’s thinking, so whenever I play with her, I feel way more comfortable because I know how she’s going to run, where she’s going to run. It’s very helpful for both of us.”
Stanford head coach Roz Ellis says that despite being new members of the team, both Bella and Ella bring a strong presence on the field and have a lot to contribute to the program as players and individuals.
“They’re both impactful for our program,” Ellis said. “They bring a lot of fun and excitement and lightheartedness to trainings and I appreciate that.”
Being identical twins, Ella and Bella say others often mix them up. “I think every single person has, at one point, asked me whether I’m Ella or Bella,” Bella said. According to Ella, being confused as someone else can get frustrating.
“Everyone thinks that we’re the same person,” said Ella, who is older by one minute. “Like, they’ll come up to me and say, ‘Oh hey Ella-Bella’ or assume that Bella and I are the same person. And we’re not, we’re very different people, so it’s just hard.”
A secret to telling the identical twins apart is to look at their shoes. On the pitch, Bella wears blue shoes, while Ella’s are white. However, what differentiates them lies deeper than their footwear.
“I really leaned on the shoe thing for a while but now I can see their personalities are the difference,” Ellis said. She describes Bella as “super lighthearted — at all times, she’s ready to crack a joke, she’s ready to laugh, she’s ready to have fun.” Ella, on the other hand, “can get a bit more serious, not that she’s not lighthearted, she definitely is, but she can stay a little bit quieter than Bella.”
But, according to Ellis, each of their differences complements the other’s. “I would say individually, they have that separation,” she said. “But when they get together, they just blossom off of each other.”
Similarly, the twins have many goals that they hope to accomplish in their four years together on The Farm, some joint and others individual. But they share an excitement for what is to come and an eagerness to prove themselves both on and off the field.
“I really do think we have a chance at winning a national championship in the next four years,” Bella said. “I can already see aspects of the culture just starting to implement and give results. I want to become the best I can at field hockey.”
“I want to try as many things as I can and meet as many people as possible and just learn everything I can,” Ella said. “I just think it’s amazing that I’m here and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to be here.”