Sharpening Her Skills as U.S. U-21 Team Veteran, Wong Primed for Final Season on PU Field Hockey
ON THE STICK: Princeton University field hockey star Elise Wong guards the back line in a game last season. Rising senior defender Wong spent much of her summer training with the U.S. national program and was recently chosen to play on the U.S. U-21 team for another year. Wong and the Tigers will start preseason practice next week and open 2018 regular season play with a game against North Carolina on August 31 in Philadelphia, Pa. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Over the last several years, Elise Wong hasn’t had much time to relax over the summer months.
Since emerging as a field hockey star at Lake Forest High (Ill.), Wong, who is headed into her senior season at Princeton University, has been involved with various U.S. teams, training over the summer with the national program as she has moved up the ranks.
Defensive star Wong played for the U-17 junior national team from 2012-15, for the U-19 national team in 2015-16 and is now a member of the U-21 squad.
“Getting all of that international experience has been a great learning experience for me and a stepping stone,” said the 5’2 Wong. “I have had great coaches that have helped me along the way.”
This summer, Wong was busy as usual, training at the national team headquarters at Lancaster, Pa. in June and then playing for the U.S. in a test series at Argentina.
Although the U.S. went winless in three games against Argentina, Wong believes the squad made progress.
“We didn’t get the scoreline that we wanted, but we showed tremendous growth as the series went on; one of our mottos is that we wanted to grow as we went on,” said Wong.
“We showed that we can play and compete and challenge a team like Argentina on their home turf.”
With her experience in the U.S. program, Wong is looking to show more leadership.
“It is a really young team and some players I played with growing up are getting their chance in the U.S. pipeline now,” added Wong.
“I feel really comfortable as one of the older players. You are a young kid and then all of a sudden you are a veteran. You get pushed up to the next team and then you are young again.”
In early July, Wong learned that she had been chosen to play another year for the U.S. U-21 squad.
“It is extremely exciting; you are training until that moment and it is nice to have that payoff when the selection comes around,” said Wong. “I hope to take more of a leadership role.”
It was doubly exciting for Wong to be joined on the U-21 team by two Princeton teammates, rising junior Maddie Bacskai and rising sophomore Mary Kate Neff.
“I have known them and have watched both of them play for years,” said Wong. “It is great to play with them outside of the Princeton team also.”
The trio helped shore up the back line for the Tigers last fall as Princeton overcame a 1-4 start to win the Ivy League title and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals on the way to a 12-7 record.
“Something we really focused on was our defensive play and it improved,” said Wong, who chipped in two goals and earned second-team All-Ivy honors in 2017. “We have most of the same unit coming in this year so we can go from there.”
Princeton saved its best for last in the NCAA tourney, upending No. 5 Virginia 3-2 in overtime in an opening round contest before getting edged by No. 4 North Carolina 3-2 in the quarters.
“All of those schools are powerhouses and we showed that we can play and compete with them,” said Wong.
“We challenged them the whole way through. It was tough going back-to-back with a double overtime game and getting up the next morning, knowing that you have to face a great team like UNC. The team rose to the challenge.”
With Princeton preseason practices starting next week, Wong and her teammates will be gearing up for a major challenge on opening weekend as they face North Carolina on August 31 and Wake Forest on September 2 in games that will be played in Philadelphia, Pa.
“We have been training for such a long time; the spring season was great growth for us,” said Wong. “This summer we have really been focusing on making sure that we are fit and we are connected as a team so we can go into the preseason and hit the ground running.”
Wong, for her part, is bringing a sharp focus into the fall as she wraps up her college career.
“I am very excited about making the most of it,” said Wong. “I have great support from my family and great support from my friends and teammates. I am looking forward to this season.”