No one will ever accuse United States Women’s National Indoor field hockey team coach Jun Kentwell of age discrimination.
When USA Field Hockey announced its rosters for the Croatia Cup, two Mercury-area athletes were named to the senior national team: Ali McEvoy Campbell and Ashley Sessa.
While 2009 Boyertown graduate Campbell has been a national team fixture for much of the decade, Sessa is something of an early arrival: She’s just a freshman at Spring-Ford.
Campbell and 14-year-old Sessa, as well as other southeast Pa. alums Samantha Carlino (Kennett Square/Unionville) and Corinne Zanolli (Newtown Square/Episcopal Academy), will be teammates for the U.S. at the Croatia Cup from Dec. 30 to Jan. 7 in Sveti Ivan Zelina, Croatia.
The junior national team that will also compete in Croatia includes Academy of Notre Dame junior Mia Leonhardt (Media), Hill School sophomore Josephine Palde (Schwenksville), Mount St. Joseph’s sophomore Megan Maransky (Blue Bell) and Episcopal Academy sophomore Kelly Smith (Downingtown) and freshman Macy Szukics (Malvern).
“The selections were particularly difficult with all of the players showing strong improvements throughout the weekend training camps,” said Kentwell. “This tour will give me the opportunity to look at a number of young athletes who will develop into the core of the next U.S. Women’s National Indoor Team.”
It would seem Sessa, who was on the junior team in 2017, is a part of that vision as one of the youngest senior team call-ups in U.S. field hockey history.
“I was ecstatic,” Sessa said about learning of her selection. “I’m so honored to be named to this team and playing with such amazing players.”
Sessa’s selection at such an early age is unquestionably rare, though not unprecedented: Unionville graduate Erin Matson, who recently led North Carolina to the NCAA championship, did three tours with the senior indoor national team starting as a 13 year-old.
Campbell is the veteran of the bunch after four years as a member of the USWNT outdoor team and 31 international caps following a standout career at the University of Maryland. She retired from the senior team on June 22, 2017, but couldn’t stay away long – she was back in October of that year leading the U.S. indoor team to gold at the Indoor Pan-American Cup in Guyana where she was top scorer and Player of the Tournament after scoring the game-winning goal in the final against Argentina.
With that kind of pedigree, it’s safe to say Sessa, who plays at the club level for WC Eagles, is happy to get to play with Campbell.
“She is amazing. She’s such a great player,” Sessa said. “I play forward, so she always helps me on my positioning and what can benefit me as a better player.”
The player pool trained at The Training Center in Limerick one weekend per month over the last six months, most recently last weekend, ahead of determining the rosters.
“It was a lot of hard work every time you’re there,” Sessa said. “You always had to give 100 percent effort.”
The Croatia Cup will mark the first international contest for the USA since the Indoor Hockey World Cup in Berlin in February 2018. The Americans finished 10th in the squad’s first-ever appearance at the event and currently are ranked No. 12 in the FIH Hero World Rankings. Campbell, Carlino and Zanolli are among six carryovers who participated in the Indoor Hockey World Cup.
“For many of these athletes, this will be their first exposure to international hockey and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to the Eastern European style of indoor hockey,” added Kentwell.
The U.S. Women’s National Indoor Team has started a new cycle, building toward the next Indoor Pan American Cup and qualification for the Indoor Hockey World Cup.
2019 Croatia Cup U.S. Women’s Indoor National Team Roster: Ali Campbell (Boyertown, Pa.), Samantha Carlino (Kennett Square, Pa.), Nathalie Friedman (Phoenix, Md.), Allyson Fuller (Philadelphia, Pa.), Skye Joegriner (Gaithersburg, Md.), Madison Orobono (Macungie, Pa.), Hannah Prince (Gorham, Me.), Hope Rose (Dauphin, Pa.), Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.), Paityn Wirth (Thompsontown, Pa.), Elizabeth Yeager (Rye, N.Y.), Corinne Zanolli (Newton Square, Pa.).
2019 Croatia Cup Junior U.S. Women’s Indoor National Team Roster: Shelby Bumgarner (Pasadena, Md.), Olivia Bent-Cole (Ventnor, N.J.), Sierra Espeland (Fredericksburg, Va.), Ryleigh Heck (Shamong, N.J.), Mia Leonhardt (Media, Pa.), Josephine Palde (Schwenksville, Pa.), Megan Maransky (Blue Bell, Pa.), Clara McCormick (Fox Chapel, Pa.), Evelyn Murray (Virginia Beach, Va.), Kelly Smith (Downingtown, Pa.), Macy Szukics (Malvern, Pa.), Rayne Wright (Bethlehem, Pa.).
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