Thursday, the U.S. women’s field hockey team’s roster for World League 2, which will be held March 4-10 in Rio de Janeiro, was released.
World League 2 is the second in a Survivor-esque series of tournaments designed to identify the participants for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague. The U.S. is being placed in a six-nations tournament alongside host Brazil, Uruguay, Trinidad & Tobago, Chile, and Scotland. The task for the Applebees is to place in the top two in this tournament — in other words, survive and advance.
Presumably, the U.S. team should not have much trouble with any of the five participants, given the American women’s world ranking (10th). However, Scotland did upset the U.S. in Champions Challenge 2 in 2011, Chile has a number of players who prepped at U.S. colleges, and Trinidad & Tobago can be a very difficult team to beat, depending on the day.
That being said, the U.S. selectors (presumably, interim head coach Tjerk van Herwaarden and current coach Craig Parnham had about the same input) picked a pretty aggressive lineup to guarantee one of the two slots to carry over into World League 3 this summer, a pair of eight-nations tournaments which will determine the World League 4 tournament, out of which half the field qualifies automatically for the World Cup.
For this round of the World League, the American team is made up of London 2012 veterans, including the entire defensive backfield of Claire Laubach, Rachel Dawson, Melissa Gonzalez, and Lauren Crandall. They will be in front of either Pan American Games gold-medal winner Jackie Kintzer or Champions Challenge 1 selectee Alesha Widdall in the goal cage.
There are a lot of moving parts in the attacking midfield and up top, however. Michelle Vittese and the injured Shannon Taylor and Paige Selenski are not in the U.S. side for this tournament. I also find it interesting that Kat Sharkey, after her monster season for Princeton University, is also not on the team.
What this means is that a lot is going to be asked of Torrie Albini and Lauren Pfeiffer, both of whom have done very well for the U.S. in friendlies the last few years.
This tournament is also going to determine, I think, the long-term future of some of the younger players in the U.S. program. Kelsey Kolojejchick became the first Carolina four-time All-American, which, given the rich history of the program the last quarter-century, is saying something. But we’ll have to see how it translates into effective play on the international scene.
Her UNC teammate, Emily Wold, was the youngest player in the U.S. elite pool last year as a freshman, and can earn her first cap in Rio. So can Jill Witmer, who has shown flashes of brilliance on the University of Maryland attack line.
It’s going to be, I think, an aggressive attacking team if things go right in Craig Parnham’s debut as U.S. manager. But when you contemplate some of the talent left behind, the specter of this site’s Fourth Law begins to arise.
That Fourth Law says that coaches can lose a game before it even begins because of the selection of players he or she makes. Let’s hope this is not one of those instances.