These athletes are in fact a rare breed.
You’ll see them pushing No. 2 pencils on their SAT and pushing out streamline passes at the Women’s National Championship (WNC). Despite being the four youngest athletes at the 2013 Women’s National Championship, these extraordinary outliers do not lack in skill or heart. While being a high school student at a prestigious tournament filled with the nation’s most tremendous collegiate Under-21 talent pool may seem like a fair enough reason to be intimidated, Tara Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.), Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.), Alyssa Chillano (Phoenixville, Pa.), and Heather Morris (Pottstown, Pa.) have reputations of exceeding the norm.
USA Field Hockey: When did you begin playing field hockey and how did you get involved in the sport?
“I started playing field hockey in second grade for my Twin Valley Youth league. My mom, who played field hockey in the Olympics, ran the program so she put a stick in my hands at an early age.” – Ashley Hoffman
USA Field Hockey: What was your reaction to hearing you had been selected as a WNC athlete?
“When I received the email that I had been selected to compete in the WNC I was ecstatic. This is a great opportunity for me to develop my skills and knowledge of the game, but being able to play with the U-21 team makes it that much better. It feels really good to play well with a supportive team around you and it can't get much better than the girls on the U-21 team.” - Alyssa Chillano
USA Field Hockey: How do you handle the pressure of being one of the youngest athletes at WNC?
“I handle the pressure by not thinking about it. I have played with and against many of these players before, so nothing seems that different to me. Obviously playing against the national team players can be intimidating, but I try to look at them as just another opponent on the field and focus on my specific role to keep my nerves down.” – Heather Morris
USA Field Hockey: What’s your plan of attack to perform well at WNC?
“My plan of attack to perform well at the WNC is to rely on instinct and basic fundamental skills, as well as being mentally prepared for challenges that may arise. To me, playing simple is the key to success. When you try to over-think and over-analyze things you can get caught up instead of moving on and doing better the next time around.” – Alyssa Chillano
USA Field Hockey: What motivates you to keep playing at such a high level?
“Moving up in the pipeline motivates me the most because there is always someone better than I am, so I continually strive and improve in order to play alongside those athletes to become the best in that age group. I always have that want to be better. I don't want to be thought of as just one of the youngest players on the team. I want to be a solid player and be an asset to the team. I want to be remembered as that, and that's what motivates me.” – Ashley Hoffman
USA Field Hockey: What do you attribute your success to?
“I attribute my success to the wide variety of talented coaches who have helped me over the years, my willingness to work hard, learn, and improve, and my passion for the sport.” – Heather Morris
The Under-21 team, coached by Steve Jennings, has had a successful start to the week-long selection tournament, sitting on top of the leader after day three of competition.