As part of our weekly Wednesday Chasing the Dream posts, we’ll be featuring a USWNT athlete up until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Quicker than you can stumble through an attempt to pronounce her last name, U.S. Women's National Team’s number 7 will have dodged past you like a static orange practice cone, barreling into the attack circle with force owning only one objective. Her gaze zeroes in on the cage and…
pause this moment.
Kelsey Kolojejchick’s stick looms in the air like a dangerous grey storm cloud ready for a hard, thunderous strike to light up the scoreboard. Zoom in closer to the frame and you’ll notice her wrists decked in colorful bracelets, the mesh between a signature look and a pregame superstition. Zoom in again, and you may spot one of her four tattoos. Kolojejchick, pronounced Ko-lo-jay-check, emphasis on the jay, sports a cross, an alpha/omega symbol and the words “it’s never too late” on her wrist. The newest edition to her collection is the mantra, “inhale the future, exhale the past.” Is her ink collection at it’s max capacity?
“My mom would be like, ‘Yeah, I think you’re good,’” said Kolojejchick laughed. “But if I can get to the Olympics and make that dream a reality, having the rings would be an amazing piece to have.”
Earning her artwork, Kolojejchick isn’t afraid of a little hard work to get there either. As a forward for the national team, she carries a hard-hitting attitude, a swag, unable to lookover.
“Having confidence without the cockiness gives me an edge,” said Kolojejchick. “Playing hockey brings out this inner lion in me. I come off strong but I just want to be powerful in everything I do. Because of that attitude, I’ve been labeled as a badass. I hear it all the time. That doesn’t really matter to me. I want to get the job done. And I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Kolojejchick first began playing field hockey in 2003 after a parent on her club soccer team suggested she that she pick up a stick. Throughout high school, she was a standout athlete not only on the field hockey pitch, but on the soccer field, the softball diamond, the gymnastics mat, the trim of the track and in the swimming pool. Maybe unexpected, but her 11 years of ballet continues to provide benefits. Ballet added an air of gracefulness to Kolojejchick’s play conditioning her to maintain good balance and center of gravity. She also notes, ballet helped ‘control emotions and movements.’ If you she her in the gym running over hurdles, chances are thrusting and stomps around her, she’ll be landing quietly with toes at a slight point.
Although with her love of difference athletics Kolojejchick ultimately chose to pursue a career in field hockey at the University of North Carolina and was the first player in the university’s history to be named as an NFHCA First Team All-American all four years.
She shared this collegiate sport experience with her brother Matt, who played football for UNC.
“We were born competitive, it’s in our blood, in our nature,” said Kolojejchick. “It started with card games and transitioned to sports.”
In high school they used to have competitions on who could get interviews with the local newspaper or TV stations and keep track of which was doing better with school records.
“It was fun, family competition to always one up each other,” said Kolojejchick. “Have those little back-and-forth challenges with each other made us better athletes. We wanted to keep beating each other, and wanted to bring our A game. I think the parents really enjoyed it.”
She traveled on a number of tours as a member of the U.S. Junior National Squads from 2003 to 2010 when she earned her first cap with the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team. Since being named to the team in 2012, Kolojejchick has made an immediate impact on the pitch and has joined several of her Tar Heel teammates in representing the red, white and blue. It has been quite the journey.
“We shocked the world during the World Cup,” said Kolojejchick. “We were seeded low and made amazing things happen. Fans from all over were on our side. The way we have been playing and continue to play show that never-give-up mentality to win. We’re not done surprising people.”
Refresh the frame from pause and press play.
When the fury behind the stick meets the ball, the crack signifies an incoming threat to the oppositions’ goalkeeper. The ball has a one-way, first-class ticket to the back of the board. As much as you can never count out Kolojejchick in the circle, you can never write off her team.
“No matter our ranking, you always have to keep an eye on us,” said Kolojejchick. “You can never overlook our team. There’s this fight inside of us that doesn’t die. They see these games where we’re down two goals, comeback and then put the game away. It makes us a threat.”