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STORRS, Conn. – Five days at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. gave rising junior Amanda Collins and rising senior Casey Umstead the opportunity to scrimmage former UConn field hockey great, Melissa Gonzalez, and Team USA.
In mid-January, Collins and Umstead both were named to the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team and earned the right to recently take a trip to California to compete against the U.S. National Team – including Gonzalez, a team captain.
Not only did the experience of playing on the U-21 team with players from around the country offer them tips, but Collins and Umstead also learned from the very team they aspire to join one day.
“We had three scrimmages against Team USA. Their fitness really stood out, as they play around the clock. It was hard to keep up,” said Umstead. “They are really talented and have high-caliber skills.”
Having time to hang out with the U.S. National Team, and talking with players of the same position, taught the UConn duo what traits are desirable in players that earn a spot on the roster.
“They look for a combination of things. They want players who are extremely dedicated to the game and have great skillsets,” said Collins. “Being able to adapt to the environment and also potentially fill a leadership role are also important features.”
Both emphasized the amount of training the players on Team USA put into their craft, considering it’s a full-time job. Looking up to a player like Gonzalez gives Collins and Umstead something to shoot for.
“We look up to Melissa because of our UConn connection. She’s one of the more experienced leaders on the team and gives us someone to follow on our path,” said Collins.
Umstead and Collins return to UConn for spring practice, which includes several scrimmages for the Huskies between March 4 and April 22. However, a trip to England might cut that short.
“It’s about 95-percent that we’ll be taking a tour of England in mid-April to play the English U-21 team,” said Umstead. In March, the U.S. U-21 team will also be heading to Duke University for a training session prior to the trip.
For two players who have previous U.S. field hockey experience on the U-17 and U-19 teams, playing with and against some of the best college talent in the country is nothing new – and it also allows them to see some friends.
“I know most of the players since I have competed with or against them for years,” said Umstead, a native of Red Hill, Pa. “From our club teams, they have gone to some of the best programs in the country, like Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse.”
Collins added, “There are players from all over the country – some in college and some even younger than that. We’re able to improve our skills when we get different ideas from watching other players.”
Collins and Umstead, both All-Mideast Region players in 2016 during UConn’s fourth-straight trip to the Final Four, have a busy few months ahead as they look to apply what they learned from their training camp in California.