Over Memorial Day weekend, I was given the opportunity to watch the women on the U.S. Nation Team compete against Ireland as part of a three-game series, as well as the opportunity to interview two of the players after the game through Philafieldhockey.com’s Young Journalists Contest. I was thrilled to receive this opportunity, as this would be great practice for a potential career in Sports Journalism. After the game, Ali Campbell and Loren Shealy answered questions about the newcomers to the team, keeping focus during the game today, and the importance of keeping composure and staying united as a team.
Though the game was packed with fiery intensity from both Ireland and USA, multiple scoring opportunities, and a multitude of cards, Team USA came out on top, 2-0. While defensively the team played strong, at the half “[Coach] wanted to make a few adjustments offensively,” says defender Ali Campbell. The Bryn Mawr native commented that “[in stressful situations] it’s important to stay focused on the team’s goals and keep the composure,” which could not have been said better, as Friday night’s game presented high levels of offensive pressure from Team Ireland. But as Campbell pointed out, “the defense worked structurally well” in Friday night’s game. Loren Shealy, who scored the second of the two goals scored by Team USA, seconded that by commenting how, “We really tried to focus on our defensive structure when they were out-letting the ball from the sixteen and we tried to cut off their outside passes.”
In addition to the solid defense that Team USA showcased, both Campbell and Shealy commented on the drive and potential that the new members of the team brought with them following the retirement of four standout team members, who were an integral part of the 2016 Olympic Team that went to Rio. “It’s a very tough transition from college to Team USA, the speed of the game is just so fast… they’ve taken it in stride and they’ve done very well,” Shealy stated honestly when I spoke to her about the new members; specifically crucial members to Friday’s game being midfielder Ashley Hoffman and defender Julia Young, who both showed respectable skill and speed throughout the game. Ali Campbell commented similarly, saying, “They’ve brought a good charisma, freshness and view to the team… they’re all very individually skilled in different ways, so that helps bring a little bit of fun to the team.” In addition to new teammates, the new Head Coach Janneke Schopman was a breath of new air, despite keeping the regimen fairly similar to previous Head Coach, Craig Parnham. “There are a few adjustments that we’ve made, but nothing too significant in terms of our training and playing strategy,” commented Campbell. An equally respectable performance was that of Unionville High School junior Erin Matson, who was brought up during the series and started at center midfield during the match. The University of North Carolina commit was seen making plays run smoothly, inserting on corners, and moving the ball fluidly. Loren Shealy commented that this was not the first time that Matson has worked with the team. “She actually traveled with us to New Zealand before… we’ve had multiple chances to play with her; she’s awesome, a really good player,” the two-year National Team member praised.
A prominent detail in Friday’s game was the number of cards given. Team USA earned three yellow cards and a green card, while Team Ireland earned themselves a green card and a yellow card. Michelle Vittesse earned two of Team USA’s three yellow cards, but Shealy stated that during the game, “We really try and focus on the game and ignore the refs, it’s all a part of the game.” In terms of keeping the team’s composure during those types of intense situations, “I think it’s just doing the simples: receive the ball, pass to a teammate, and stay underneath the ball.”
Once the more game-focused questions were asked, I asked the two players if they had any mottos or game day mantras for the team. Ali Campbell said, “Our team motto is ‘United’, so we really try to remember that while we play together,” while Loren Shealy wisely responded, saying, “’Give it your all, all the time.’ It’s something we all try to do.” When asked if they had any pre-game rituals, Campbell smiled and told me, “I always try to wear the same socks, if that counts!” Shealy shared with me that “I just like listening to good music; someone in the locker room always has music playing. I always play soccer with a group of girls on the team.”
When asked about the future of the program moving forward, Shealy ended our talk with this statement: “You know, as players get older and they retire, there’s going to be people that you’re going to miss playing with. But we have a lot of new talent on the team, and a wide variety of ages, so I’m looking forward to what the future has in store for us.” And as a journalist-for a day, I think that was a pretty insightful way to end the night.
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