Katie Reinprecht was a little rusty when she played for the U.S. national field hockey team in the Pan American Cup last fall.
Having taken a hiatus from the game after her senior season in Princeton in 2012, star midfielder Reinprecht lacked her characteristic sharpness.
But showing the savvy that comes from being the Longstreth/NFHCA Player of the Year in 2012 as Princeton won the NCAA title, and having competed for the U.S. squad since 2009, Reinprecht made her presence felt in the tournament.
“I had more experience than a lot of the girls so I was able to lead that way,” said Reinprecht, who helped the U.S. take second at the competition and earn a berth in the 2014 World Cup.
“We have a lot of new girls on the the team. I don’t think I got my groove back until later in the year, I was off that spring.”
This spring, the U.S found a groove as it defeated Ireland 3-1 to win the Champions Challenge in Glasgow, Scotland.
“In April we were in the Champions Challenge,” said Reinprecht. “The top 8 teams play in the 2016 Champions Trophy (the major warm-up tournament before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games) and we had to win the Champions Challenge to qualify for that. It was a good step forward.”
Last month, Reinprecht starred as the U.S. took a big step forward, placing fourth in the 2014 Rabobank World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.
Coming into the tourney, the U.S. made a big commitment to raise its fitness level. “We have a new strength and conditioning trainer, we train how we are going to play in the game,” said Reinprecht, noting that the U.S. national team is now based in Lancaster, Pa. at the Spooky Nook sports complex.
“It is high tempo, high intensity with more conditioning thrown in there. It makes it really tough but it is important to get through it. You get to rest the next week, it is very scientific and thought out.”
As it arrived in the Netherlands for the competition, the U.S. team was looking to keep its thoughts on the present.
“The big thing for this team is that we have only been together for a year so this is going to be a process,” said Reinprecht.
“We didn’t want to come into this with high expectations and put a lot of pressure on us. We wanted to finish higher than our ranking which would mean 9th or better. We wanted to take it one game at a time because when you are in a game there that is all that matters. Each game can have such impact.”
The 10th-ranked U.S. made an impact, going 4-0-1 during group play, tying No. 2 Argentina and posting wins over No. 7 China, No. 6 Germany, No. 11 South Africa, and No. 3 England.
“We were very pleased with how we played in the pool play, we took down some opponents that were ranked higher,” said Reinprecht, who was tied for the team lead in goals (3) in group action. “We stayed focused, we didn’t get ahead of ourselves.”
In Reinprecht’s view, the 2-2 tie with Argentina spoke volumes about the focus the U.S. brought into the competition.
“It is always a very intense game when we match up against Argentina; it set the tone for us,” said Reinprecht, who scored a goal in the contest.
“Getting a win in that first game was great but the fight we showed against Argentina sent a message on what kind of team we were going to be. It gave us a lot of confidence.”
Getting to compete for the U.S. with younger sister and former Princeton teammate, Julia, along with another fellow Tiger, Kat Sharkey, was a great experience for Reinprecht.
“It is very nice playing with Kat, we have had a lot of time training and playing together,” said Reinprecht, who has now played in more than 100 games for the national squad, more than any Princeton alum.
“I know what to expect from her. She is one of the most lethal finishers in the game so it is is nice to have her on the team. Julia returned from her injury and it didn’t look like it fazed her in any way.”
While falling to Australia in the semis in a shootout after the teams knotted at 2-2 through regulation and overtime hurt, Reinprecht was proud of how the U.S. played.
“It was the first time any of us had ever been in that situation at this level of competition,” said Reinprecht.
“We delivered a good performance in the semi. We just ran out of time. It was tough to lose in a shootout. We haven’t practiced shootouts much, that was the least of our worries.”
Ending the competition with a 2-1 defeat to Argentina in the bronze medal game left Reinprecht and her teammate hungry for more.
“It didn’t go the way we wanted but it was our first stab at the medal round and we have to be happy finishing fourth,” said Reinprecht.
“We wanted a medal, we were so close we could taste it. We learned some good lessons. It is hard to leave and not be pleased. It was a step in the right direction. We have raised the bar.”
Having played in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Reinprecht will be working hard to earn a trip to the Rio games in two years.
“Right now, playing in the Olympics is the projection,” said Reinprecht. “We have a good core group. I am excited to see what we can do. I will be doing full-time training. I think my game can definitely improve. When I look at the best players in the world, I know I have some ways to go. I excelled in some ways in the World Cup. I have been working a lot on my shot and having variety in the circle. I scored in some ways that I don’t normally score and coach said I guess that work is paying off.”