VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — USA field hockey took one step closer to finalizing its national team this week, as the Virginia Beach Regional training center hosted the Senior Nexus Championship, presented by Osaka Hockey, where potential Olympians competed for a spot to represent the stars and stripes. Head Coach of the women’s national team, Greg Drake, emphasized how crucial this annual event is in deciding his squad.
“We utilize this event to see all the upcoming talent and all the talent around the country,” he said. “For us it's incredibly important that they perform well at this tournament and that this tournament happens every year.”
Over the past six months, athletes trialed and trained at one of the seven USA Field Hockey High Performance Centers throughout the country for an opportunity to be selected. This week, 144 of the nation's elite high school, collegiate, and post collegiate players gathered, but only about 30 will be selected from here. Drake, who was named head coach in April after serving as assistant, says there's absolutely no shortage of talent.
“We’re really happy with what's coming through. We think we’ve got a great opportunity to be successful at the national level.”
For team USA forward Erin Matson, who’s played on the national team since 2017 and has won three national titles with UNC Chapel Hill, it's a homecoming of sorts.
“One part of it is that it's a lot of fun because everybody in the field hockey world is a very close-knit family. We’re all together, the best players playing together on different teams, hanging out with one another, and learning from each other,” said Matson. “The second part is that it's really competitive.”
The tournament concludes on Friday and selections will be announced later this month and although players are competing individually for a spot, to Matson, they're all in it together.
“I always try to keep the same mindset of, if you want to get noticed and want to play well, you need to lean on the players around you and make players around you look better. We’re all trying to make each other look better,” she said. “I think if you just keep that mindset and try to make the person next to you look good, with a good pass so they can run forward, or be on the post so if a girl has a shot that goes wide, you tip it in and it's a goal, and no one will remember that her shot went wide. Stuff like that.”
That mindset has gotten her pretty far having been one of only two players to ever be selected for the U.S. Women's National Team at age 16 and a recipient of the Honda Sports Award, recognizing the nation’s top collegiate field hockey player for consecutive years in 2019 and 2020. It's no doubt Matson has a bright future ahead, surely filled with even more accolades and achievements, and her abundance of experience is something she’s never taken for granted.
“We’re very lucky, I’m very lucky. Like I said I’ve played in a lot of these and they all matter, and they all add up to the bigger picture of being on the Olympic podium with a medal for your country.”