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BULLETIN: July 1, 2016 — Olympic roster based on faith, experience

Going into last month’s Champions’ Trophy, you had the feeling that Craig Parnham and the USA Field Hockey selectors had pretty much settled on the group of players that was being sent to the Rio Olympics, but the key was figuring out the right chemistry for the group.

Of course, a lot of that plan went out the window when perhaps the most important part of the leadership equation, captain Lauren Crandall, missed five games of the tournament with a lower-body injury.

The USA Field Hockey brass, evidently, expects Crandall to find match fitness in five weeks, otherwise, they would not have selected her to her third Olympic team. The team is going to rely on its experienced players, some of whom are nearing 300 caps.

Let’s take a look at the women’s Olympic team selections in our usual “layered” fashion.

Lauren Blazing, Natalie Cafone, Ali (McEvoy) Campbell, Casey DiNardo, Ali Froede, Loren Shealy, Maria-Elena Bolles
These were members of the pool who were selected to train with the national team, but who were not selected for last month’s trip to Europe, which included two games against Holland as well as the FIH Champions’ Trophy. This is a group of recent graduates, and I think their best days are ahead of them.

Emily Wold
The youngest member of the team, I thought she acquitted herself quite well at the Champions’ Trophy, playing in five of the six games and scoring a pair of goals. It has to be heartbreak for the Jerseyan, but, as history has shown time and again, an injury recall could happen at any time.

Alesha Widdall, Paige Selenski
Widdall is an excellent goalkeeper who has international experience against Top 5 teams. If starter Jackie Briggs suffers an injury (shades of 2001), Widdall is a more-than-capable netminder.

Selenski was at the edge of the 18-player roster for the most recent European trip; she was on the roster for the two-game series with Holland, but was not on the roster for the Champions’ Trophy. Her quickness and technical ability will be valuable if an outfielder suffers an injury.

Jackie (Kintzer) Briggs
The latest in a series of University of North Carolina goalies to start for Team USA, she distinguished herself in helping the States win the 2011 Pan Am Games, the 2014 Champions’ Challenge, and the 2015 Pan Am Games. She also had a heroic effort in keeping Australia off the scoreboard in a post-overtime shootout win at the 2015 Champions’ Trophy. If this means she’s the proverbial “hot goalie” heading into Rio, watch out.

Lauren Crandall, Rachel Dawson, Stephanie Fee, Alyssa Manley, Julia Reinprecht, Caitlin Van Sickle
Four years ago, there were times when the U.S. backfield was cut to ribbons by opponents, especially by South Africa in the final pool match. If Crandall, your U.S. captain, is able to come back from the injury that held her out of five Champions’ Trophy matches, it is going to be a big, big boost of confidence for the defense. Julia Reinprecht is the States’ corner flyer, and she has done extremely well in that role the last several years.

Katelyn Falgowski, Melissa Gonzalez, Katie Reinprecht, Michelle Vittese
This is the strength of the U.S. team. Hard in the tackles, smart in terms of jumping into the attack, and, most important, mental toughness. Gonzalez, especially, has been great in Crandall’s absence as she captained the team for five matches during the Champions’ Trophy. Vittese has a Carli Lloyd-esque knack for coming up with enormous performances in big games.

Katie (O’Donnell) Bam, Michelle Kasold, Kelsey Kolojejchick, Kat Sharkey, Jill Witmer
The frontrunners for the United States are a fruit salad of strengths. Bam is a technical genius, Kasold can beat you in so many different ways, Witmer is the speed, and the two former high-school teammates, Kolojejchick and Sharkey, are intense and fearless in the D. Bam’s brace against Australia in the bronze-medal match came after she received a 10-minute yellow shortly before the interval. It was a performance that will go down in legend.

Anna Dessoye, Casey DiNardo, Amanda DiNunzio, Jess Jecko, Alyssa Parker, Taylor West
These six players were announced last February to join up with the national team after the Olympics. DiNardo, I think, is going to be a player to watch since she was already in the player pool before the process began of picking a team. Jecko is a fine goalkeeper and it will be interesting to see what she does in terms of next-level play.


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