2012 struggles push U.S. women's field hockey to new heights - WSMV News 4

2012 struggles push U.S. women's field hockey to new heights

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The U.S. women’s field hockey team finished in last place at the 2012 London Olympics. The team only won one of six matches and scored just five goals.

It was a difficult experience for many of the players, some of whom were making their Olympic debut. “That first experience wasn’t ideal,” said midfielder Michelle Vittese. “No one trains, puts everything on the line, their heart on the line, to come in last place.” 

“After 2012 it left a bad taste in our mouth,” added midfielder Melissa Gonzalez. “We didn’t do as well as we wanted. It was kind of like going through a grieving process.”

The disappointment of the 2012 Olympics served as a springboard for change in the setup of the team. In January 2013, the U.S. appointed Craig Parnham as the team’s new head coach. Parnham was an assistant with Great Britain and was with the team for two Olympic appearances, including the 2012 Games. 

“A new coaching staff came in and a good core group came back,” said Gonzalez. “We redefined ourselves and set new culture goals…We were fortunate with the staff that had come in really set a new standard for us.”

“A lot has been restructured within the team: how we train, our culture, how we address one another and we talk to one another,” said defender Julia Reinprecht.


The 2012 Olympics also became a motivator for the U.S. “It’s hard to say what really happened, what broke down, why we didn’t have the success that we wanted but I think it renewed my commitment to what I wanted to achieve,” said Reinprecht. “It isn’t just about going to the Olympics. Now I’m striving to medal.”

“At that point I was so thrilled to be a part of it,” said Vittese of 2012. “Our captain, Lauren Crandall has said it the best, she no longer just wants to be there. No one wants to just be there, this is what we do, we’ve dedicated our entire lives to be training like this.”

Since 2012, the U.S. has had success, particularly at the 2014 World Cup. The team surprised many, finishing fourth at the tournament despite being ranked 10th in the world at the time. 

“The World Cup was the coolest thing because we went from being this little underdog that not really anybody cared about and then making such a big statement really put us in the minds of every time around us,” said forward Kelsey Kolojejchick.

“The World Cup was incredible,” said Vittese. “The chemistry we have created and the culture that we have created I think had a large part in that success and I think we have been building on that since then.”

At the 2016 Champion’s Trophy tournament the U.S. won bronze, continuing its run of successful tournament finishes. It goes into the Olympics ranked fifth in the world, the team's highest ranking ever. 

The U.S. has not won an Olympic field hockey medal since 1984. 

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