When it comes to experience, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Field Hockey Team can bring it by the capful.
The team, which was named by USA Field Hockey and coach Craig Parnham Friday morning, averages 144 international caps (games played) per player, led by veteran defenders Rachel Dawson (281) and Lauren Crandall (270). Three other players have more than 200 international matches under their belts: midfielders Katelyn Falgowski (217) and Michelle Kasold (210), and forward Katie Bam (205).
Nine of the players are back to erase the disappointment of a last-place finish (12th) at the London 2012 Olympic Games: Bam, Crandall, Dawson, Falgowski and Kasold, along with midfielders Melissa Gonzalez and Michelle Vittese and sisters Julie and Katie Reinprecht, a defender and midfielder, respectively. Three (Crandall, Dawson and Falgowski) will play at their third Olympic Games after placing eighth in Beijing.
Seven players will make their Olympic debut: goalkeeper Jackie Briggs (a replacement athlete in 2012); forwards Kelsey Kolojejchick, Kat Sharkey and Jill Witmer; and defenders Stefanie Fee, Alyssa Manley and Caitlin Van Sickle.
The team has been on the upswing during the build-up to Rio, splitting a pair of exhibition matches against the Netherlands, the world’s No. 1-ranked team, before traveling to London earlier this month and winning the bronze medal at the Champions Trophy, a gathering of the top teams in the world. It was the team’s first medal at the annual competition in 21 years.
That performance, which included a shootout victory over No. 3-ranked Australia in the medal match, vaulted the U.S. over China and Great Britain, slotting the Americans at No. 5 in the world going into the Rio competition.
It is a team that has enjoyed success in recent years: 13 were part of the team that earned Rio Olympic qualification with a gold medal at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, and nine of those were defending the championship they’d won four years prior in Guadalajara. Fourteen were on the team that won the 2014 Champions Challenge in Glasgow, Scotland, and 11 suited up as part of the squad that won the 2013 World League Round 2 in Rio.
The U.S. opens play in Pool B against world No. 2 Argentina on Sunday, Aug. 6. Also in the challenging group are No. 3-ranked Australia, No. 7 Great Britain, No. 10 Japan and No. 13 India. With a win and draw against Australia and a victory over Great Britain in the Champions Trophy tournament, the American side can meet the challenge with confidence.
Since women’s field hockey was introduced to the Olympic program at the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, the United States has won one medal, a bronze at the Los Angeles 1984 Games. The Netherlands is two-time defending Olympic champion, while Argentina has medaled at the past four Olympic Games (silvers in 2000 and 2012, bronzes in 2004 and 2008).