Top field hockey talent takes field for opening day of Womens National Championship

May 23, 2013, 7:32 p.m. (ET)

Top field hockey talent takes field for opening day of Women’s National Championship

Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. hosts the week-long selection opportunity

NORFOLK, Va. – May 23, 2013 - The top field hockey athletes in the country took the field today for opening day of the 2013 Women’s National Championship event on the campus of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. The week-long selection tournament will crown one team Regional Champions, but far more importantly determine the 2013-14 U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team.  

U.S. head coach Craig Parnham is assessing the pool of players on a level playing field for the first time since taking the role as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team back in February.

“It is great to see all the players in one venue,” said Parnham. “This is the first time I have had that opportunity and it helps when assessing players on a level playing field. The quality of play has been good and I think it will improve through the week as the teams start to understand and play the system and become more familiar with each other.”

Pennsylvania put up an impressive performance over New Jersey, shutting out the reigning champions 3-0 in the first match of the day. Neither teams were able to capitalize on opportunities inside the circle in the first thirty-five minutes, however, Pennsylvania wasted no time lighting up the scoreboard in the second half. Rachel Sumfest (Lewisburg, Pa.) recorded Pennsylvania’s first goal in the 41st minute. Rachel Dawson (Berlin, N.J.) scored on a penalty corner in the 52nd minute and Katie O’Donnell (Blue Bell, Pa.) finished the scoring with a field goal in the 62nd minute.

Pennsylvania’s head coach Denise Zelenak called the match-up a “tight rivalry.” “It was a very high tempo, intense match,” said Zelenak. “Putting the first goal in gave us some room to relax and focus tactically and we were able to capitalize on some opportunities.” 

The Mid-Atlantic/South team has a wealth of experience on their roster, featuring four Olympians, including one two-time Olympian. Their expertise helped guide the Mid-Atlantic/South team to their first victory of the tournament over New England/North. Michelle Kasold (Chapel Hill, N.C.) opened the scoring in the 18th minute followed by Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) in the 25th minute. Mid-Atlantic/South had a comfortable two goal lead heading into the second half.

Kim Young (Sydney, N.Y.) put New England/North on the board in the 40th minute, but a second goal by Kasold sealed the 3-1 victory for the Mid-Atlantic/South team.

The final match-up of the day was between Midwest/California and the Under-21 team. The U21’s unleashed an offensive barrage against Midwest/California, scoring four first half goals en route to an impressive 6-1 victory. Heather Morris (Pottstown, Pa.), Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.), Tara Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.), Alyssa Chilliano (Phoenixville, Pa.), Marie Elena Bolles (Phoenixville, Pa.) and Teresa Benvenuti (Morristown, N.J.) contributed one goal apiece. Torrie Albini (Escondido, Cali.) scored Midwest/California’s lone goal of the match.

“I think it was an important first day for us to come out and try to work together and develop a rhythm,” said U21 head coach Steve Jennings. “I thought the first two goals early on really settled us and we really tried to play together. We trusted each other and were aggressive in never backing down. I am really proud of the effort of the team today.”

The Women’s National Championship is also serving as a selection camp for the Junior World Cup team, held in Germany, July 27-August 4. Jennings said this event is a critical phase in identifying the right players for the World Cup event and having everyone play together at this event, even though it is not the final team, is an important part in developing rhythm and chemistry.  

The competition continues tomorrow beginning at 9:00 a.m. with Pennsylvania taking on Midwest/California, followed by New Jersey vs Mid-Atlantic/South at 11:00 a.m. and the final match at 1:00 p.m. featuring New England/North. All matches will be played at Powhatan Sports Complex on the campus of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Admission is free and open to the public.

For more Women’s National Championship coverage, checkout and @USAFieldHockey for tournament updates, results and features.