Nicole Woods will never forget her first World Cup experience. The Beverly resident went to London, England with her USA field hockey teammates, and although the results weren’t what they had hoped for, the thrill of playing before thousands of cheering fans is something they will cherish.
“It was insane,” said Woods, who is spending her time off from training hiking in Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah. “I was in the Junior World Cup, but this one was a thousand times different. When we played England there were 10,000 people there, and almost all of them were cheering for the home team.
“I always look to see where my mother (Betsy Woods) is sitting, but I couldn’t find her because our parents were seated way up high in the stadium. I’ve never played in front of half the number of people there that day, but I wasn’t totally in awe because we had watched England play a game a few days before so we had a sense of what the atmosphere was going to be like.”
The United States tied England and India, but lost to Ireland and didn’t make it out of pool play to advance to crossover games.
“In the end it didn’t go the way we expected, but we felt very good after tying England because they were ranked very high,” the former Louisville University star said. “If we hadn’t picked up a point that time things would have gone downhill even faster. As it was, we were pretty disappointed.
“There were three days off between each game so we had some time to see London. On the first and third day we had some really hard practices with a lot of running and lifting, but on the second day we could do some site seeing.”
Woods said the team was staying only 20 minutes outside the city, and she went to see London Bridge and the Shakespeare Globe Theatre.
“I’m an English literature nerd so I had to see that,” Woods said. “We were in a good location right next to a big mall where you could get anything you needed including a good cup of coffee. After we tied again on a Sunday World Cup organizers offered us the chance to stay through Wednesday’s games. Some people had family there, who had flown in so they stayed, but my Mom had already left. I really wanted to get home at that point.”
Woods was hoping Ireland might win it all, and the No. 16 ranked squad almost did pull off the big upset. After beating the USA the Irish team went all the way to the finals before losing to the defending champ Netherlands. The goalkeeper for Ireland Ayeisha McFerran was Woods teammate at Louisville where she posted a stingy 1.91 goals against average for the Cards last season.
“Ayeisha was named best goalkeeper of the whole tournament, and I’m not at all surprised because I played with her for three years,” said Woods. “This tournament really showed off her talent. Ireland didn’t qualify in South Africa and had to wait until there was an upset that allowed them to get in. I was on the bus with her when she got the news Ireland was in. That country hadn’t gone to the World Cup in several years (2002), and I’m very happy for her.”
Next up for the USA team is the Four Nations International Tournament in Osaka, Japan on September 12-16. Japan, Australia, Argentina, and the United States will compete.
“We go back on Monday, August 27, and players that are picked to go will be announced after we’ve been practicing a while,” said Woods. “It’s basically the same system they used to decide which ones would go to the World Cup.
“‘I’m in Moab, Utah now by the Grand Canyon, after hiking in Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it, and way harder than I expected. Believe it or not it’s’almost harder going downhill than climbing up because you are so sore by then. You go up to get to the top, and it’s beautiful, but all the while you know you have to get back down.
“The scenery is something else, and I’ve never been to any of these places before. It’s so cool, and now I’m excited to see more of our country. You don’t realize there are places like this right here in America. I’d love to do a hiking trip again; it’s such a great way to really get to see everything.”