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July 27, 2022 — A bold, and offensive, stroke

Greg Drake, the head coach of the U.S. women’s national field hockey team, knew he had a certain amount of young talent coming out of last week’s NexUS championship.

In choosing a pool of 38 players to form the U.S. senior women’s national team for upcoming tournaments, he also did what a number of his predecessors either could not, or did not, do. And that is to assemble players who have a proven knack for doing what the object of the game is: put the ball into the back of the goal frame.

Amongst the 38 players are the following:

Erin Matson: 87 goals in just two seasons at Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.), 109 goals for the University of North Carolina
Mackenzie Allessie: 124 goals in one season and 351 goals for Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
Leah Crouse: 104 goals, 104 assists for Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.)
Charlotte De Vries, 191 goals for Virginia Beach Cape Henry Academy (Va.) and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)
Ryleigh Heck, 125 goals in one season and 323 career for Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
Megan Rodgers, 81 goals in one season for San Diego Serra (Calif.)
Hope Rose, 90 goals in one season and 233 career for Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)
Meredith Sholder, 217 goals for Emmaus (Pa.)
Paityn Wirth, 180 goals for Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.)

Look. I know that the usual “past performance is no guarantee of future success” is part of every sport, especially in a sport where one call, one missed touch, one error in judgment can derail every plan a coach may have — especially against the likes of Holland, Argentina, or Australia.

And sure, there are situations in the world of sport where the player discarded in high school may become a cultural and sports icon (hello, Michael Jordan).

But I can’t tell you any time in the last 40 years where there has been so much attacking talent in the national team pool at the same time. I think perhaps the last time was in the mid-1990s when players like Tracey Fuchs (171 career goals at Centereach, 79 goals for UConn), Kris Fillat (53 goals at Serra in 1987), and Michelle Vizzuso (69 goals at West Essex in 1994, 50 goals and 60 assists at UVa) were part of the national side. Or what about when Katie O’Donnell (100 goals at Maryland) and Paige Selenski (100 goals at UVa) were on the national team in the early 2010s?

Sure, the United States has had plenty of attacking talent at its disposal. But every story of the players who have scored more than 135 goals in their careers often has a decision or an incident which knocks them off their path to national-team selections.

The group of 38 who are preparing for selection for the next iteration of FIH Pro League play is going to have not only expectations to live up to, but numbers that they have posted in lower levels of competition.

This, however, is a step up. And I’m excited to see what a group of 16 or 18 can do on the world stage.


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