Sports brings opportunities and lifelong lessons one cannot gain from anywhere else. Linnea Gonzales knows this all too well through her young career thus far as an athlete on the U.S. Women’s National Team, and shows no signs of yielding to these challenges any time soon!
Like many elite athletes, Gonzales was introduced to the game through family, specifically her sister, at the age of seven. Originally playing soccer, she ultimately never looked back from field hockey once she wanted to follow in her sister’s footsteps.
High school life at times was a blur for the Bel Air, Md. native as Gonzales juggled the sport as a four-year varsity athlete for Patterson Mill High School, club play with H2O Field Hockey and Futures.
“It definitely kept me busy, but I had a lot of fun competing and learning from different programs, teammates and coaches,” said Gonzales. “It also helped me gain exposure to college coaches and progress within Futures.”
Gonzales helped Patterson Mill to the state finals as a junior in 2013. That same year, she racked up a number of honors, including being named First-Team All-American, Baltimore Sun All-Metro Player of the Year, Baltimore Sun All-Metro Team, All-State Team and All-County team.
She holds countless memories as a member of H2O, including taking home three medals from the National Indoor Tournament.
“Club life with H2O was great all around,” continued Gonzales. “The program has elite coaches who are passionate for the game and their players. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by fun, competitive and dedicated teammates. We had the best memories and experiences together, all in midst of competing and growing as a team. I am very grateful to have been a part of this club.”
When it came time to think about college, the University of Maryland was a natural fit for Gonzales, who fell in love with its family culture and athletic passion on the pitch.
“Maryland is not only elite in academics, they are also highly competitive in the sport of field hockey,” continued Gonzales. “Missy Meharg is a tremendous leader who deeply cares for her players on and off the field. She has taught me a lot both as a player and a person. Once a ‘Terp always a ‘Terp!”
Gonzales continued to add to her individual honors from 2015-18 as a Terrapin, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year, First-Team All-Big Ten Team (2017, 2018), Big Ten Player of the Year (2018) and National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) National Player of the Year (2018). She also helped lead Maryland to back-to-back Division I National Championship appearances. While competition was fierce on the college level, she was no stranger to the Olympic Development Pathway.
To her, it has been the biggest trek of them all to where she stands proudly today with Team USA.
Gonzales was named to the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team in 2013 and 2014, as well as the U-21 USWNT in 2015 and 2016. In between these milestones were times when her name wasn’t part of final roster. When it wasn’t in the cards, Gonzales used it as motivation to drive further. Being part of Futures and the Olympic Development Pathway is an accomplishment in of itself but being rejected once, or more than once, doesn’t mean one’s dream is quashed. It is part of the process for anyone with the dream of becoming an elite-level athlete.
“The Olympic Development Pathway has been a journey,” said Gonzales. “I was involved in Futures from a young age. With this competition came ups and downs of being selected for teams and not being selected. Through this journey of ever-growing improvements, I have had the privilege to represent the red, white and blue for the USWNT.”
In 2018, Gonzales was named to the U.S. Women’s National Development Team and went on tour in June to compete in USA’s tour of Argentina. About six months later, she was selected to the senior USWNT roster and earned her first international cap on January 27, 2019 against Chile, ahead of USA’s upcoming campaign in the inaugural FIH Hockey Pro League season. It was another memorable moment along her field hockey career which was helped by the support of her teammates, something Gonzales will always cherish.
She has since become a well-recognized face on the field throughout USA's run through both seasons of the FIH Hockey Pro League so far, as well as the 2019 Pan American Games and 2019 FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier.
All in all, field hockey is more than a game to Gonzales, be it past, present or future.
“This sport has given me tremendous opportunity,” said Gonzales. “The opportunity to play the game I love, the opportunity to meet and learn from different people, to be challenged and to grow as a player and person. The opportunity to compete at the highest level and to represent my country, giveback and grow the game. Field hockey is more than a game, the journey and process are just as special to me.”