The journey to the top

June 15, 2011, 3:53 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, C.O. – It is a scorching hot and humid Friday in Washington, D.C. The sun is beating down on the hockey pitch and most people are covered in a layer of perspiration. But there are five young women who are covered with chills because they each just heard their names announced to the 2011 USA Women’s National Team for the first time.

These young women reign from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California. Each took different journeys to arrive at this moment. Some climbed the Developmental Pipeline, some were discovered during college, some trained abroad and one had an even rarer story. This is the tale of five young women who just achieved their dreams and the journey they each took to get there.

Let us start in the “heart of hockey land”: Pennsylvania.

In the middle of the state there is a famous chocolate factory, and there is Annville, the hometown of electrifying defender Brianna Davies. Brianna, often called Bri, accredits her year round play with her club, Mid-State, for where she is today. She played with Mid State during middle and high school, in addition to participating in Futures. Bri is also a graduate of the storied field hockey program at Palmyra Area High School.

The combination of these programs earned her a chance to play at the University of Maryland, where she won two national championships and was named to the U-21National  Developmental Squad. Being named to the Senior National Squad has been a goal of Brianna’s for years and she was "shocked and relieved” to hear her named called on that Friday afternoon. 

“I never gave up and worked hard every single day," said Davies. 

After training in Chula Vista and a strong performance at the 2011 Women’s National Championship, her commitment to her goals paid off.

About two hours northeast of Davies, you will find the home of fellow new National Team member, the quick and crafty striker, Kathleen Sharkey. Sharkey gained her hockey skills growing up in Moosic, Pennsylvania. She attended perennial powerhouse, Wyoming Seminary and played for Valley Styx Club in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Kat praises the coaches that aided in her field hockey development including Valley Styx Club’s Mary Suchoski, Susan Lloyd, and Samantha Lloyd and Wyoming Seminary’s Karen Klassner and Kim Barbacci.

“My high school and club programs definitely made the transition to college field hockey easier for me," said Sharkey.

A true athlete of the Olympic Development Pipeline, Sharkey has already toured in Holland, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Germany and Ireland with the Developmental Squad. Her international experience likely helped to craft her dangerous offensive play. Sharkey currently holds the record at Princeton University for goals in game, as well as points and goals in a season.

No surprise that this goal oriented junior was also the leading scorer at the 2011 Women’s National Championship. But all the praise of the 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year was not without sacrifice.

“I’ve missed formals, proms, weddings and graduations for field hockey, but I don’t regret it because I am where I am because of those sacrifices,” said Sharkey.

Sharkey joins collegiate teammates Julia and Katie Reinprecht on the National Team, as well as another Tiger that was recently added to the Squad.

Michelle Cesan hails from New Vernon, New Jersey and also credits her club field hockey team, The Edge, for instilling her love and passion for the game. The standout sophomore at Princeton University has proved to be a serious offensive threat for the Tigers, tallying 46 goals and 16 assists and starting all 38 games of her career. Michelle has also spent time on both the Developmental Squad and U-21 National Team, but still hearing Head Coach Lee Bodimeade call her name “was a feeling like none other”.

“It didn’t even sink in until a few days after,” recalls Cesan. “I was so excited to get out to Chula Vista and start training with my role models. I consider myself so fortunate to be a member of this team.”  Cesan will be touring with the eighteen member Squad to Dublin, Ireland for Champions Challenge, June 18th- 26th.

From New Jersey we can take a trip up to Sudbury, Massachusetts. That is where Lincoln-Sudbury High School standout Pam Spuehler calls home. A true Bostonian, the high school star earned the opportunity to play for Sally Starr at Boston University. A Honda Award nomination, two time All American honors, and a four time first team all-conference selection, most would call that a successful hockey career. But Pam Spuehler was not satisfied. She continued to play hockey aboard in Australia after the conclusion of her collegiate career.

The following year in 2009, Spuehler was named to the USA Development Squad. Still wanting more, she was off again, this time to train in Germany. Spuehler says that training in Berlin gave her the confidence and skill to play at the international level. Hearing her name called after the Women’s National Championship gave her chills, a feeling of overwhelming excitement, and a smile that lasted for days. 

Now from Sudbury, you’ll have to hop on a flight out of Logan International and several hours later find yourself in Escondido, California. Hometown of the powerful and dangerous striker, Torrie Albini. Torrie’s story is different. She didn’t play at the club level and only had one year of Futures under her belt. A sharp contrast to many current National Team players who may have been on the radar for ten years, Torrie came out of nowhere. As a Bobcat at Ohio University, she received conference and regional accolades. Most would have assumed Torrie was done playing field hockey after college and taking a year off. But after a great performance and leading thSpuehlere tournament in goals at the 2010 Women’s National Championship, she was named to the USA Development Team. After a year of training and another stellar performance at this years Women’s National Championship, she was named to the National Squad.  Albini joins Michelle Cesan on the Champions Challenge Squad in Ireland.  

Although all these journeys are different, there is one common theme. All five athletes had blind faith in themselves and an unwavering persistence. From training in foreign countries to relocating to San Diego to ACL surgeries, the commitment and belief that these young women have invested in an unguaranteed dream is motivational and moving.