After Tying the Knot, Former Princeton Star Anderson Aiming to Make U.S. Women's Olympic Hockey Team
It has already been a big summer for Gretchen Anderson.
In July, the former Princeton University women's hockey star married B.J. Kilbourne, a standout for the Tiger men's team.
This week, Anderson, a 2004 Princeton graduate, will be looking to achieve another milestone this summer as she plays at the USA Hockey National Women's Festival in Lake Placid, N.Y. which will serve as the selection camp for the 2006 Olympic team.
Sounding a bit like a nervous bride, Anderson acknowledges that she has mixed emotions as she looked ahead to the tryout camp.
"I think it's going to be competitive and really fun," said Anderson, a native of Natick, Mass. who ended her glittering Princeton career with 87 goals, the sixth most in program history.
"It's hard, I have a lot of friends there but we can't be friends that week. All of us are going after the same thing."
Anderson's ties with some of her friends in the hockey world have helped as she undergoes morning and evening workouts in preparation for the Lake Placid competition which will run from August 18-25 with the squad being announced at the end of camp.
"I played with Courtney Kennedy, Angela Ruggiero, and Andrea Kilbourne (a former Princeton star and U.S. Olympian who is Anderson's new sister-in-law) for a girls' club in the Boston area," said Anderson, who has been working for the Boston law firm Tocci, Goss, and Lee when she is not on the ice. "We played against men's teams. It was good competition. I've also been skating and working out on my own."
Anderson knows that she must showcase her finishing touch around the net, among other things, if she is to make the cut for the Olympic squad which will compete in the Winter Games next February in Torino, Italy.
"I have to finish well, I need to score goals," said Anderson, who capped her Princeton career by scoring 30 goals in her senior season and being named a first-team All-ECAC and first-team All-Ivy League performer.
"There are so many other things that I need to do well. I have to play defense and show that I can get back when the puck is out of the zone."
Princeton women's hockey coach Jeff Kampersal believes that Anderson, who played for the U.S. in the Four Nations Cup last year, has what it takes mentally and physically to make the squad.
"Gretchen is a brilliant person to begin with, she always had her act together academically," said Kampersal, who will be coaching at the festival.
"She's also brilliant on the ice. Her specialty is scoring, finishing. She needs to pressure the puck, dig it out of corners and finish. That's what the coaches will be looking for from her."
As Anderson looks to impress the Olympic coaches, she acknowledges that she is feeling some butterflies in her stomach.
"I'm anxious and nervous," admitted the normally affable Anderson with an uneasy laugh. "I want to get going and get it over with. My dad tells me that I have the rest of my life to work and that I should throw myself into this."
From her vantage point, Anderson believes she can overcome her nerves by utilizing some of the lessons she learned at Princeton.
"I'm so much stronger mentally and physically now than when I came to Princeton," said Anderson, whose classmate, star goalie Megan Van Beusekom, will also be among the 40 candidates vying for a spot on the Olympic squad.
"I learned to shake off mistakes. I go into each shift and I'm in the moment. I won't let a mistake on a prior shift get me out of it. There are so many good players; so much of the game is played in the head. The players there are all skilled and conditioned; it comes down to who is the toughest."
Anderson is determined to emerge as one of the toughest of the tough at the camp. "I've worked so hard to get to this point," said the 5'6 Anderson, who took a brief one-week honeymoon to Jamaica before plunging back into her hockey training. "This has been a big dream of mine. I have to work as hard as I can. It would be a dream come true."
If Anderson's diligence turns heads at Lake Placid, she may get the chance to have a second honeymoon next winter in Italy.