COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – August 22, 2018 – After competing at the 2018 Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup in London, U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Jackie Briggs (Robesonia, Pa.) and captain Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, N.Y) have formally announced their retirement from the senior squad. The duo joined the USWNT in 2010 and have been staples of the red, white and blue roster for nearly a decade. Together, the pair combined for 425 international caps and several moments of shock, cheer and success on the pitch.
“All my friends that I grew up playing soccer with decided to try field hockey in 7th grade,” said Briggs, regarding how she began the game. “One of the girls I played soccer with, and was good friends with, had us all try hockey because her mom was the coach, and she made it really fun.”
Born in Reading, Pa., Briggs’ field hockey career took off as a member of the High Styx field hockey club and while attending Conrad Weiser High School, earning All-State honors, before the rising star headed to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. When deciding where to go and what sport to participate in at the next level, Briggs ultimately chose field hockey over horseback riding.
Briggs helped the Tar Heels to two NCAA Division I National Championships. In 2008 while still at UNC, Briggs helped USA claim the gold medal in the Junior Pan American Championships in Mexico City and was a member of the squad that played in the 2009 Junior World Cup in Boston, Mass.
After joining the USWNT in 2010, one of her defining moments came just before the 2011 Pan American Games. Originally left off the roster, Briggs made a last minute flight to join the squad in Guadalajara, Mexico. From there, she helped USA upset Argentina in the final, earning the program’s first ever Pan American gold medal, and punching their ticket to the London 2012 Olympic Games. That same year, she helped USA to a silver medal finish at the Champions Challenge I in Dublin, Ireland before earning gold in the 2013 FIH Hockey World League Round 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She would return to Brazil three years later as the starting goalkeeper for Team USA at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“Winning the 2011 Pan American Games will always be one of my favorite memories because not only did we make history, but I wasn't even supposed to be there,” continued Briggs. “Another favorite memory of mine would be representing my country in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Four years of hard work and determination went into that moment, and I am incredible grateful for it.”
One of her most defining moments of her career came in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she was an alternate athlete. Determined to make the starting roster next time around, Briggs set out with more motivation than ever.
“As an alternate in 2012, I became obsessed with earning a starting spot in the Olympics in 2016,” said Briggs. “It really defined the next four years of my career and lit a fire in me to achieve that goal. In 2016, representing my country in the Olympic Games was a true honor and an experience I will never forget. That team was something special, and we gave up a lot to get to the Olympic Games, and it was worth it in the end.”
Briggs was also a member of the 2014 squad that shocked the world in a fourth place finish at the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup and a gold medal at the 2014 Champions Challenge. She was also pivotal in USA’s gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games and bronze medals in the 2016 Champions Trophy and 2017 women’s Pan American Cup. More recently, her goalkeeping highlighted the USWNT’s gold medal performance at the 2017 FIH Hockey World League Semifinals in South Africa, where she was named Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament following two critical shootout victories. This aided her being nominated for the 2017 FIH Hockey Stars Awards Female Goalkeeper of the Year. She finishes her career with the USWNT with 184 international caps.
“Jackie was a very good goalkeeper, still getting better, and in my opinion definitely one of the top goalkeepers in the world,” said Janneke Schopman, USWNT Head Coach. “She is one of the most competitive players I have worked with. Her passion on the field was always visible and whether it was a small sided game or an international match you knew there was someone in goal doing everything possible to win. I would like to thank her for all of her hard work and dedication to the team and USA Field Hockey, it was a true pleasure working with her as a player, she will be missed.”
“Representing my country on the field was unlike anything I've experienced,” added Briggs. “It was an incredible honor to put on the USA jersey and sing the national anthem alongside my teammates. There is no greater honor than representing your country, and I feel very lucky to have played as many games as I did.”
Briggs recently moved to Cary, N.C. where she will be the volunteer assistant coach for UNC this fall, a role she held back in 2012. She would like to thank her parents, husband and coaching staff for all of their support and help over the years. Specifically, Briggs noted the support of her goalkeeper coach, Dave Williamson, who volunteered his time for over a year to “teach an old dog new tricks.”
“He helped me take my game to another level at the pinnacle of my career by refining my skills and believing in me,” noted Briggs. “I also would like to thank my sports psychologist, Peter Haberl, for helping me learn how to deal with negative thoughts and nerves, which inevitably led to a lot of my success. Being a goalkeeper is 90% mental, after all. And lastly, I want to thank all my teammates over the years. Being a part of a group of strong, courageous, determined women has really shaped me into the person I am today. I've met some of my best friends in life playing field hockey. I also would've never played as long as I did if it weren't for my teammates. I will always miss playing, but I will miss my teammates even more.”
Gonzalez, a two-time Olympian, was dominate in the midfield since her days of leading her high school team to two state championships in 2003 and 2006. Originally recruited to the University of Connecticut for soccer, Gonzalez ultimately chose field hockey as she helped guide the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament every year.
“My father passed away my junior year of high school,” said Gonzalez. “I was contemplating soccer in college. However, when he passed soccer, being our sport, began to be too difficult for me to play. So my focus really turned to field hockey, especially because he was the first person who would said he believed if I worked hard I could be a part of Team USA.”
She earned several honors and awards, including NCAA All-Final Four Team, Big East All-Tournament Team, All-Big East Second Team and NFHCA All- Mideast Second Team honors her freshman year in 2007. In 2008, Gonzalez entered her sophomore season as UConn’s top returning scorer while also being selected for Junior National Camp and the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team the same year. She was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year and earned NFHCA All-America and All-Mideast First Team honors in 2009, as well as being named to the Junior World Cup Team alongside Briggs. In 2010, she was again named Big East Defensive Player of the Year in addition to First Team All-American honors and a finalist for the Honda Sports Award.
Much like Briggs, Gonzalez verified her importance to the USWNT at the 2011 Pan American Games in the team’s stunning first place finish. From there her leadership skills continued to grow and resonate with her teammates over the years from the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup and 2015 Pan American Games, to the 2017 women’s Pan American Cup, FIH Hockey World League Semifinals, and London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“Melissa was a silent force in the team when I first joined,” commented Schopman. “A very hard worker, doing her job not for the praise but because that was what was expected. She had excellent skills, and if anything, tried to beat players more than once just for fun. She was also a great person to have in the group because you knew there would never be dull moment with Melissa around. She was a fierce and strong competitor, never afraid of a challenge whether in the gym or on the field.”
“She will be missed on the team and I would like to thank her as well for all of her effort and dedication she put toward the sport and the team.”
“Being a part of Team USA has been the one of the most rewarding, challenging, demanding most difficult things I’ve ever done,” continued Gonzalez. “It was the best and worst of times. But it taught me a lot about myself as a person. It helped challenge and grow my character. It taught me about hard work, resilience and being the best version of yourself even when you’ve been pushed to all physical and mental limits. I loved every one of my teammates and they have become family. It was an honor to wear the red, white and blue.”
Gonzalez has accepted the assistant coach position at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C. and will look to use her playing experience to lead the Demon Deacons. She would like to thank every single person who helped, challenged and supported her across her career.
“To every single person who supported and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” said Gonzalez. “All my coaches, family, friends and teammates I love you all and appreciate every word kind gesture.”
USA Field Hockey wishes the best of luck to Briggs and Gonzalez in their coaching endeavors!