2001 NATIONAL TEAMS HAVE A SURPRISING PARALLEL
By Al Mattei
They held three national field hockey selection camps in late 2000 and early 2001. The meetings were 3,000 miles apart, run under different sanctioning bodies, with players examined with different sets of eyes, all picking red, white, and blue-clad teams which will travel to important field hockey tournaments in 2001.
The selections for the 2001 U.S. senior men's and women's national field hockey team and the 2001 Maccabiah Games women's field hockey team have similiarities ranging from the obvious to the obscure.
Each team goes into their major competitions with built-in expectations they hope to exceed. Each team is stocked with veteran international players and college All-Americans.
But befitting the FIH's Year of the Youth celebration, all three teams will have high-school students on their rosters.
The U.S. senior women's national team, for the first time in a decade, has an 18-year-old on the roster: Kelly Dostal, the fine midfielder for Hatfield Smith Academy (Mass.).
"When she went off to 'A' Camp, the general consensus was that she would definitely make the U-18 team, and that she had an outside shot at the U-21s," said Smith Academy head coach Sherry Webb. "But for her to make the national team, it's a dream come true for her."
Though not as heralded as some of her stronger and more athletic contemporaries, Dostal's play with the New England Eclipse of the United Airlines League in the summer of 2000 exposed her to high-caliber play as well as high-caliber teammates.
"She didn't have a 'Jack In The Beanstalk' kind of senior year, but she did have a good season," said Webb, referring to Dostal's 24-goal output. "She was able to translate (her physical and mental strengths) into a good passing game."
In 2000, Smith Academy won one of the two Massachusetts public-school state championships in grand style, beating every opponent by at least two goals, and earning a No. 10 final ranking through TopOfTheCircle.com for the season.
But Dostal's next field hockey experience will require much commitment on many sides. The Wake Forest-bound senior will be traveling to a residency camp in Virginia Beach, Va., requiring many arrangements to be made.
"She has indicated that she will be missing school," Webb said. "She has already arranged to take classes and to keep up on her work on line. We also had to apply for waivers through the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association)."
Dostal, a member of the National Honor Society, is expected to graduate on time and join the Demon Deacons for preseason.
She is one of numerous young players on the women's national team who are looking to earn their first caps in 2001. Several have tremendous promise, like Virginia back Jessica Coleman, Iowa midfielder Natalie Dawson, the sisterly combo of Kristi and Kelli Gannon, North Carolina stars Carrie Lingo, Amy Tran and Abby Martin, Princeton's Melanie Meerschwam, and forward Kim Miller from NCAA champion Old Dominion.
The team is scheduled to be in Miller's backyard for the next 3 1/2 years, as the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia will serve as the team's residency camp.
Gathering there will be Dostal as well as a host of experienced players, including the legendary captain Tracey Fuchs, who enters the 2001 calendar year with more international caps than any other U.S. women's player in history. Joining her are veteran goalkeeper Peggy Storrar, defensive stalwarts Katie Kauffman and Autumn Welsh, and midfielder Carla Tagliente.
Members of the U.S. team will have the duty, in 2001, of making as good a showing as possible at the inaugural Americas Cup in Jamaica, competing in the FIH's Champions' Challenge in December, then attempting to make the 2002 World Cup through a qualifying tournament if they do not win the Americas Cup and its World Cup berth.
The team, however, is without a few hundred games' worth of international experience; the national team pool is without Cindy Werley, the Vizzuso sisters, and the fine corner specialists Jana Toepel and Kris Fillat, as well as the defensive wizardry of Antoinette Lucas or goalkeeper Jana Withrow. Instead, it would appear that the U.S. team is taking the long-term approach to developing the national team for Athens 2004.
There will certainly be other 'A'-camps between now and the Olympics, and it will be interesting to gauge the makeup of the team: will members of the 2001 residency team have an advantage over those who took a year or two off?
For all of the Americans' youth on the women's side, the men's senior national team will likely be even younger once head coach Shiv Jagday picks his tournament side in the middle of 2001. Of the 24 players he has in the national team pool, at least eight are listed as high-school students, the vast majority of them on the West Coast.
A number of very young players have caught Jagday's eye, including David Schmoyer, the home-schooled 11th-grader who has played for Doylestown Central Bucks West (Pa.) for three seasons.
"He's going to be a very good player," said Jagday of Schmoyer. "He's very dedicated to the game, and the more he works, the better he'll be."
Like the women's national team of 2001, Jagday's philosophy relies more on long-term successes. He is not expecting the senior men's team to make the 2002 World Cup, but he has noticed that a couple of Junior World Cup-qualified teams have been falling by the wayside as Hobart 2001 approaches.
"France dropped out because they didn't have the funding, and (the FIH) chose New Zealand to go in their place," Jagday said. "I hope that we'll be able to go; who knows?"
If there is a U.S. team in the Junior World Cup, another young player will have a chance to improve: Jarred Martin, the younger brother of Team USA defender Abby Martin.
"My God, that kid is something," Jagday said. "He's been in the system only two years, and he scored some important goals for us at the Junior World Cup qualifier in Chile, where we got to the semifinals. He has the speed, the size, and the deception. He also comes from a hockey family."
The Martins join Robyn and Justin Kenney as the only brother and sister to serve simultaneously on U.S. field hockey national teams.
The 2001 U.S. women's Maccabiah Games team also has youth players on its roster. For one of them, Samantha Somach, it was redemption for what was, for her, a subpar season at The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School. Her team did not defend its county title and was beaten out for the state independent-school crown.
"I told my dad that I thought I played better than I had all year," said Somach, who battled injury all year before the Maccabiah Games selection camp. "I honestly didn't believe that I had made the team, since I didn't know anybody there, and I don't think the coach was looking in my direction when I was out there. But when I got back from vacation, we got a letter in the mail."
The selection is Somach's first to any select national team.
"I have never been to Israel before, so that in itself should be an experience," she said. "I haven't even been able to picture what it's going to be like."
Somach will have a scholastic teammate, Erin Sokolow of the nationally ranked Oak Park River Forest (Ill.) team.
The Americans will be looking to improve on their bronze-medal finish from 1997, and will have some pretty good players on the roster. Team USA Maccabi has former NCAA Division I stalwarts Abigail Gutstein (Princeton) and Meredeith Weinstein (Michigan), along with rising college star Valerie Cohen (James Madison).
Team USA Maccabi also has its own player of Fuchsian longevity. Mim Chappell-Eber, who has been a delegation leader and/or team captain for several iterations of Maccabiah Games teams, returns for 2001.