Vol. LXI, No. 30
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
BACK IN PLAY: Natalie Martirosian, left, races up the field during her career for the Princeton University field hockey team. Martirosian, a 2005 Princeton alum, spent two years away from the game while she worked in Kazakhstan. She returned to the U.S. earlier this year to give field hockey a final shot. Her effort was rewarded when she was recently named to the U.S. National Team.
After graduating from Princeton University in 2005, Natalie Martirosian set off to Kazakhstan to apply some of the knowledge she gained as a Slavic Literature major.
Working in the communications department of the Eurasia Foundation, Martirosian had her hands full dealing with press relations, using both English and Russian on a daily basis.
But last summer, Martirosian felt a void in her life despite her hectic, challenging schedule."I started missing field hockey," said Martirosian, a three-time All-American during her Princeton field hockey career."I went from a college program where I was playing every day to not playing at all. There weren't any clubs in Kazakhstan. You go a few weeks without playing and you start losing your fitness and skill. I had gone months without playing."
Martirosian, 24, who had previously played for the U.S. Under-19 and Under-21 teams, decided her best route back into the game was to come home and try out for the U.S. National Team."The national team was doing well and I wanted to get involved," said Martirosian, a native of Richmond, Va. "I contacted the national coach before I left to let her know I wanted to get back into the national program."
Martirosian came back to the U.S. earlier this year and started the arduous process of regaining her skills and fitness as she faced the prospect of competing with 120 players for the 24 spots on the national team.
Bucking the odds, Martirosian found her game, getting named to the U.S. national squad last month. Martirosian acknowledged that she faced an uphill battle in achieving her goal of getting back into the game.
"I was pretty overwhelmed when I came back," said Martirosian, who was based in her native Richmond upon her return to the U.S.
"I hadn't played since college. I needed to just focus on training and fitness; it was pretty daunting. I was sort of in a state of desperation. I was going to my old high school (St. Catherine's) and dragging girls onto the field to practice."
The selection process for the U.S. team centered on a tournament between teams from six different regions. Martirosian tried out for both the Virginia-Maryland and New Jersey-Pennsylvania squads.
She ended up sticking with the N.J.-Pa. team which was coached by Princeton's Kristen Holmes-Winn.
"I was coming to Princeton for practice, it was great for me," recalled the diminutive 5'3 Martirosian, who led Princeton to three Ivy League titles during her Tiger career. "We had three to four weeks of practice. Kristen was the coach and I knew a lot of the people on the team.
Martirosian, who stands fifth all-time in assists at Princeton with 30, showed a new side of her game as she played in the selection tournament.
"It was very high quality field hockey," said Martirosian, who was joined on the N.J.-Pa. team by former Princeton teammate Maren Ford. "The competition was very tough. I was scoring goals which was something new."
While Martirosian was proud of how she played in the tournament, she wasn't sure that she had earned a spot on the U.S. team.
"It was one of shock," said Martirosian, reflecting on the emotions she felt when she learned she had been chosen for the squad. "It was something I really wanted but I wasn't expecting it to happen."
The U.S. squad has made a lot of progress on the international scene as it has advanced to the championship game of the Pan American Games. A win over Argentina in the game would clinch a spot of the U.S. in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Although Martirosian wasn't among the U.S. team members chosen for the trip to Rio de Janeiro for the Pan Am games, she is confident she can make an impact for the national squad over the next few years.
"I want to contribute to the team in any way I can," asserted Martirosian. "I want to bring something unique. I need to fix my weaknesses; I need to be stronger on the ball. I want to get in the best shape possible."
No matter what happens, Martirosian is happy that she made the decision to follow her passion for field hockey. "I'm putting other things on the backburner," added Martirosian. "This is something I needed to get out of my system. I didn't want to regret not trying."
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