When Teresa Benvenuti joined the Princeton University field hockey program last August, she was a bit intimidated by the squad’s returning U.S. Olympians, Katie and Julia Reinprecht.
“Coming in, we were scared to talk to them,” said Benvenuti. “We soon realized how nice they are. They are so successful on and off the field, they can’t help but be role models.”
Benvenuti took a page out of the Reinprecht sisters’ book in her freshman campaign, making first-team All-Ivy League and earning Ivy Rookie of the Year honors on the way to helping Princeton win its first-ever NCAA title.
“I had to learn to be part of the team, and not just be watching,” said Benvenuti, a native of nearby Morristown, who tallied seven goals and seven assists as a back/midfielder in her debut campaign.
“It is easy to look at Katie or Kat [Sharkey] dribbling the ball up the field. I had Katie playing right behind me and that was great. She would tell me where to go.”
Now Benvenuti is going down a similar path as the Reinprechts, making the roster of the U.S. senior national team and getting named to the U.S. U-21 squad that will be competing in the Junior World Cup, which is running from July 27 to August 4 in Monchengladbach, Germany.
Having played for the U.S. U-14 through U-19 teams, Benvenuti has already gained a lot from international experience.
“You get to play with different coaches and players; you learn different styles of play,” said Benvenuti, who was named to the U-21 team in the spring of 2012.
“Then playing internationally, you go against great players; you have to learn to stay calm and composed.”
This past fall, Benvenuti displayed that composure, raising the level of her game in the postseason as the Tigers produced their stirring title run.
“As the tournament goes on, you play better and better teams and you have to improve,” said Benvenuti, who tallied two goals and two assists in her four NCAA appearances.
“I would talk with the coaches after each game and they would tell me what I needed to work on. The main thing was not trying to do too much and to take care of the simple things.”
Benvenuti took care of things in the NCAA semifinals, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime in a 3-2 victory over Maryland on her first and only penalty stroke of the season.
“It was the first one I had taken,” said Benvenuti, recalling her moment of glory.
“I had never been so confident and calm; there was no doubt in my mind. Michelle [Cesan] told me I was going to be the one to take it and I could see she had confidence in me. I still can’t believe I made it.”
Benvenuti couldn’t believe her bad luck two days later when a fluky injury kept her out of the title game.
“In the warmup before the championship game, I heard a pop in my hamstring,” said Benvenuti.
“I was looking forward to playing in the national championship game as a freshman. I was not able to move laterally so that would leave a big hole in our defense so somebody else had to step up. It was awesome to see us win.”
As Benvenuti looks ahead to the Junior World Cup, she is expecting another awesome experience.
“I have heard good things about the team; I really like the coaches,” said Benvenuti.
“We did a little practicing at the High Performance weekend, we had about five days together. First we are going to Holland for some test matches against the Dutch and then on to Germany for some games there. I think our team will rise to the occasion.”
The U.S. will be hoping to rise above their eighth place finish in the 2009 World Cup.
“We have to take things one game at a time and focus on the moment,” said Benvenuti.
“I am trying to make sure that we keep our formation and organize the backline.”
This fall, Benvenuti will be trying to keep things well organized for the Tigers as they defend their national title.
“With Kat, Katie, and Amy [Donovan] graduating, I am looking to help more with leadership,” asserted Benvenuti.