The U.S. Women's National Team returned to America earlier this month from the southern hemisphere with experience that could help them to land a berth in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, according to one of its athletes.
The United Eagles has another series of FIH Hockey Pro League action starting in June. The senior team recently played eight games: four in New Zealand and four in Australia.
When they resume play, it will be in Europe, where they again will challenge highly skilled international competitors.
These games are beneficial for the sake of making corrective steps prior to the 2023 Pan American Games (PAG), midfielder Brooke DeBerdine told FAN in a video interview. The winner (out of eight women’s teams) will compete in next year’s Olympic Games.
The PAG are held in Santiago, Chile in October and November.
“We feel that we are on the right path to succeed at the PanAms,” DeBerdine said. “We know we can compete. After our first couple of games, it was a really good feeling, but we do have a ton more work to do. We feel super motivated. We have the right staff, the right team, and we’re building the right culture, and that will impact us at the PanAm games.”
The 2023 Pro League debut is DeBerdine’s second round on the international stage. Coach David Passmore, who was installed to lead the national team in August 2022, and his staff, are focusing on the athlete’s physical training, she said.
“Internationally, David is showing us how quick the game has moved in one year,” she said. “He has the stats. That’s something we’re always going to be focusing on. When we run, we have to sprint. It’s more of a mental thing. As soon as we lose the ball, I’m sprinting to wherever I can on the field. We are trying to practice that as much as possible. That’s something that we want to be our strength and not something that we have to spend time focusing on. We want to focus on the hockey behind it.”
The current senior national team has set high expectations, DeBerdine said.
“We’ll go up against Argentina again at the PanAms,” she said. “We weren’t happy with our results and our general performance with them. But there was so much we were happy with. Going into it, we felt very confident organizationally and hockey wise. After seeing where we are at, we just know we have to build on that. We have the right foundation. It’s a really, good feeling. We know the steps we have to take.”
Penalty corners are something the United Eagles will “constantly keep focusing on in training as they have proved to win and lose games internationally,” DeBerdine said. The athletes had a rigorous schedule that noticeably improved their skills, she added.
“You don’t get exposed to these things until you get into games like that and then you see your weaknesses,” she said. “We’re going back to the building blocks and refocusing on honing-in on the details.”
The Americans (No. 16) went to shootouts against Australia and New Zealand. They won both.
USA ended its first FIH Pro League series of 2023 with a 3-5 record. They split two contests with New Zealand (No. 9), China (No. 10), and Australia (No. 3). USA dropped two games to Argentina (No. 2).
“The second game against Australia, we were pretty disappointed to not come out with a win there,” she said. “We’re looking back at that a lot. 2-1 Australia, we got scored on in the last three minutes. We know that we can compete at that level. We try to not look at rankings. It doesn’t really mean anything to us.”
The team is learning to adapt quickly, DeBerdine said. One of her fondest memories was when she and a few teammates ventured out into the water, where they talked about their loss to China.
“We decided we’re leaving the emotions from the loss and taking the learnings,” she said. “And, then we went back to the same spot and we were able to have that feeling with your teammates. We turned it around so quickly and beat China. We were very proud to make those changes.”
She continued: “A lot of credit goes to David and the culture he is so focused on building for us. It’s a really, good feeling. We are really excited about our coaching staff. We feel as a team we have the resources to accomplish the dreams and expectations we have for ourselves.”