With PU Grad Reinprecht Playing Key Role, U.S. Field Hockey Earns Pan American Gold
GOLDEN MOMENT: Katie Reinprecht looks for an opening in action for the U.S. women’s national field hockey team. Last month, former Princeton field hockey standout Reinprecht ’13 helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. Midfielder Reinprecht scored a goal in the team’s 2-1 win over Argentina in the final. The goal came on an assist from Reinprecht’s younger sister, Julia, a star defender for the U.S. and a former Tiger standout herself. (Photo Courtesy of USA Field Hockey/Yuchen Nie)
After the U.S. women’s national field hockey team took fourth at the World Cup last fall, Katie Reinprecht and her teammates on the squad viewed themselves in a new light.
“Obviously we were pretty pleased with how we performed in the world cup,” said midfielder Reinprecht, a 2013 Princeton University alum who helped the Tigers win the NCAA title in 2012, reflecting on the tournament which saw the U.S. lose 2-1 to Argentina in the bronze medal game.
“We knew how much hard work we put in and that we would have to keep working hard. It put us on the map but it also meant that other teams were going for us and really shooting at us.”
After some good early results this year, the U.S. took a step back with a disappointing fifth place finish at the World League this spring.
With the Pan Am games on the horizon, that result was a wakeup call for the U.S.
“We didn’t finish as well as we wanted at the world league,” said Reinprecht. “We had two weeks to regroup and we had some really good training.”
That hard training paid dividends as the U.S. went across the border to Canada and struck gold, rolling into the finals and edging nemesis Argentina 2-1 to place first.
The U.S. squad got rolling in pool play, going 3-0 and outscoring their foes 19-0. In the quarterfinals, the U.S. routed the Dominican Republic 15-0.
“The level of competition varies at the Pan Am games, in the world league every team you are playing is good,” noted Reinprecht.
“We tried to take each game seriously and find a way to better ourselves. We had to be über critical and be hard on our mistakes. We looked at the little things because we knew we couldn’t make those mistakes against the better teams.”
In the semis, the U.S. faced a serious challenge as it took on host Canada. “I have to give a lot of credit to Canada; they played an amazing game, they really gave us a battle,” said Reinprecht, reflecting on the contest which saw the U.S. clinging to a 1-0 lead coming into the fourth quarter before pulling away to a 3-0 triumph and thereby clinching a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We knew they would, they had been playing well and they had the home crowd. We showed a lot of resilience, we didn’t come out strong but people stepped up and put the ball in the back of the net. We finished.”
Matched against rival and nemesis Argentina in the gold medal, the U.S. was primed to produce a strong performance. “We know Argentina so well; it is a really big rivalry,” said Reinprecht.
“It has been going on since before I joined the national team. We are familiar with each other and the individual girls that we are going against.”
While the teams were locked in a scoreless draw at halftime, Reinprecht liked the U.S. team’s chances.
“People stepped up on the back line,” said Reinprecht. “I think we were feeling pretty good at halftime. It was a matter of staying calm and keep doing what we were doing and stick with the process. We felt the tide was turning in our direction, we were making connections.”
The connection between Reinprecht and younger sister, Julia, a star defender for the U.S. and a former Tiger standout herself, helped the U.S. break through for a 1-0 lead as they combined on a goal.
“It is something we had worked on in practice; we thought there might be a seam to play the ball across,” said Reinprecht.
“There was a little passing lane and we spotted it at the right time. She made a great pass and I had a tap in, We saw the sea part just an inch, that was pretty special.”
The moment was particularly special in view of the fact that Julia suffered a serious head injury in her last appearance for Princeton in 2013 and was not at full strength for months thereafter.
“She is a very, very skilled defender and is super smart back there,” said Reinprecht of her younger sibling.
“It is one thing to be a teammate and see someone recover from an injury like that but to be her sister, I am definitely very proud of her. It was pretty tough.”
The U.S. added a second goal in the third quarter against Argentina and then had to show some mental toughness as it held on for a 2-1 win.
“Going up 2-0 can be dangerous, it can lead to a false sense of security but it was a good cushion for us,” said Reinprecht. “I was very confident on our defense.”
Earning gold was a very good experience for Reinprecht and her teammates. “To get a gold medal was super exciting,” said Reinprecht, who totaled four goals in the competition. “To go through really
intense moments and come out with a win is really important. You grow as a team, it is an important lesson. There were so many people there to support us so that was great. It was really special.”
Having joined the national team in 2009, Reinprecht has grown into a team leader.
“I am an attacking midfielder but I like to help out on defense,” said Reinprecht, who has made 137 appearances for the U.S. squad.
“I definitely enjoy being able to create up top but endurance is one of the attributes I bring to the team. We have so many incredible players that you just can’t shut out a few players and stop us. I have taken on a bit more of a leadership role. I speak up a little more.”
With the focus turning to the Olympics, Reinprecht is determined to become an even better player.
“We need to make the most of every moment of practice and every moment together,” said Reinprecht, who is based in Lancaster, Pa. near the U.S team’s Spooky Nook training site.
“It is easy to get into the monotony of training. I want to be the best player I can be for next year and be the player I want to be each training day.”
Having played for the U.S. team that took 12th at the 2012 London Games, Reinprecht is bringing a hunger to her training.
“It is nice going into the Olympics having the experience with the crowds and knowing the attention we are getting back home,” said Reinprecht.
“It was a pretty disappointing final result for us. I remember going out with the team afterward and it was so motivating. We don’t want to feel like that again, we want to do it better.”
Building on the success at the Pan Am Games, Reinprecht believes the U.S. can make a medal run in Rio.
“That is the goal and I think it is totally possible,” said Reinprecht. “We can compete with anybody, it is producing the right performance at the right time. We need to fine-tune things; the little things really make a difference at that level. We need to work on things like finishing skills and corners.”