After Superb Career with PU Field Hockey, Caro Finding Niche with U.S. National Team
NATIONAL PRESENCE: Cat Caro, right, goes after the ball in the fall of 2016 during her senior season on the Princeton University field hockey team. After earning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year honors and getting named as a first-team All-American that season, Caro joined the U.S. Women’s National Team shortly after her graduation in June, 2017. This year, she has made 11 appearances for the U.S. squad, notching her first goal for the squad against Chile in a test series this April. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Over her career with the Princeton University field hockey team, Cat Caro patiently worked her way up the ranks of the squad.
In her first three seasons with the Tigers, she scored a total of 18 goals in gradually gaining a bigger role in the team’s offense. As a senior in the fall of 2016, she emerged as the focal point of the attack, scoring 18 goals on the way to being voted as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, getting named as a first-team All-American, and helping the Tigers advance to the NCAA Final 4.
In reflecting on her big senior campaign, Caro said it was mainly a function of team play.
“It is just how the year played out and the penalty corners that I was on,” said Caro, a 5’5 native of Martinsville, N.J.
“As a team, we were super cohesive and everyone played their roles. I may have scored the goals at the end of the day, but it was everyone doing their part and owning their roles.”
Months after graduating in June, 2017, Caro started the process of finding her role with a new squad, moving to Lancaster, Pa., to start playing with the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“Joining any new team, you are coming and you are trying to figure it out and learn your place again,” said Caro, who was officially added to the senior team’s roster that December, having previously played for the U.S. U-19 and U-17 programs.
“It is basically like being a freshman all over again. Physically the challenges are being fitter and getting faster and being able to play the game at such a high level.”
Caro has proven to be up to the challenge, making her national team debut on January 27 against powerhouse Netherlands and then playing in test series against Chile and Argentina.
The presence of former Princeton star Kat Sharkey ’13 has eased Caro’s transition to the national program.
“Kat is an amazing person and player; it is great to have her as a resource and help me get my feet underneath me,” said midfielder Caro, who has made 11 appearances so far for the U.S. and notched her first goal for the squad against Chile this April.
“She has seen it all; she knows how to roll with the punches and she is arguably one of the best on the team now. I am learning everything from her, from off the field stuff to on the field stuff.”
For Caro, making her debut against the Netherlands team proved to be a memorable experience.
“It was definitely surreal, playing the No. 1 team in the world for my first cap; it was definitely something I will never forget,” said Caro. “The excitement of actually singing your national anthem with your team; I think it all set in what was actually happening. The whole day, everyone was so supportive. All of my teammates were saying ‘this is your first cap, enjoy every moment of it.’”
Caro certainly enjoyed getting her first goal, coming through against Chile in April.
“It was a two-versus-one against the goalie so really I was thinking don’t miss,” said Caro.
“It was special hearing your name on the loudspeaker; having everyone cheering for you means a lot. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. It was another special moment I won’t forget.”
While the U.S. went 0-3 in its series at Argentina, Caro believes the team is on the right track.
“I think if you look at the team coming from our series against Holland al the way to our series with Argentina, we have made a lot of strides,” said Caro, who did not make the trip to London this month as the U.S. competed in the Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup where it didn’t advance out of pool play.
“We have worked out some of the kinks, not necessarily what you will see in the score line but if you were to watch the games you would see the progress we have made as a team.”
In reflecting on her experience so far with the national program, Caro believes she is making progress.
“I am still finding it a little bit; I am a younger player but I am being positive and encouraging everyone so that at the end of the day we become a stronger, better, closer team,” said Caro.
“I am more comfortable in the environment. I am going with the flow of the game, enjoying it and just focusing more on the game than oh my gosh, I am on the team.”
Looking ahead, Caro is shooting to make the U.S. team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “Being on the team in 2020 is the long term goal,” said Caro. “There are so many goals that I have in terms of steps along the way.”