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Jan. 11, 2017 — One sound, gone worldwide

There’s still a disc somewhere containing some of the experimental recordings I did on a Sony MiniDisc when I went to the opening day of the 2007 Pennsylvania field hockey season. It was Aug. 30, 2007, and the opponents were Levittown Pennsbury (Pa.) and Flourtown Mount St. Joseph Academy (Pa.).

It was a typical late-summer afternoon in Pennsylvania, on a grass pitch which had been freshly cut out for the season. Pennsbury, for years, has played its home matches under a small grove of trees at the corner of the school where Penn Valley Road turns into Hood Boulevard.

Through the Sennheiser boom microphone, I tried a number of different experiments with sound, trying to pick up the sounds of birds in the trees, trying to pick up conversations, and tire noise from the cars leaving the school.

And then, through the microphone and stereo headphones, I heard this “click.” It wasn’t a smack, a slap, or a clank, but a click that told you that the player — whoever it was — had struck the ball flush on the front face of the stick. It was a sound borne of purpose, hundreds of hours of technique, and deadly purpose. It’s the kind of sound you don’t hear all that often.

The player wielding the stick on this occasion was Katie Reinprecht. The high-school senior had a pair of goals and an assist on the day. Also on the pitch that day was her sister Julia, and she had the fourth goal for the Magic in a 4-0 win over Pennsbury.

The Reinprecht sisters have done a lot together. They were on the cusp of PIAA championship success, they brought Princeton University a national championship in 2012, and they combined for some 500 appearances for the U.S. women’s national field hockey team.

In those 500 caps, Katie and Julie Reinprecht were integral to the rejuvenation of the U.S. team’s fortunes after some two decades in the Olympic wilderness (save for the time they qualified as hosts in 1996). The sisters were part and parcel of not one, but two Pan American Games gold medals. They also played on the team that won the first major trophy in the history of the U.S. women’s national program when they won the 2014 FIH Champions Challenge.

Yesterday, they announced their retirement from international field hockey. They will leave gaping holes in the midfield and on defense; Katie Reinprecht was a fine attacking player who distributed to the front line with speed and accuracy. Julia Reinprecht was an amazingly effective corner flyer in an era where the rules and tactics almost made a flyer obsolete. But the younger sister showed immense personal courage during her career, competing even after suffering a severe head injury.

Their departure comes at an interesting time in the development of the game in the United States. With a number of young players competing both indoor and outdoor on the U-21 and senior levels, there is a cohort of record-breaking talent out there.

But they’re going to have to go some distance to match the Reinprechts’ accomplishments on the pitch. They’ll be missed.

 

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