LANCASTER, Pa. - UConn field hockey head coach Nancy Stevens and associate head coach Paul Caddy both got a very rare opportunity last Wednesday night - watching not one, but two former players compete in international play.
UConn legends Melissa Gonzalez and Roisin Upton went head-to-head when the U.S. Women's National Team hosted Ireland in a three-match set at Spooky Nook Sports - the site of the National Training Center.
Gonzalez, the captain of Team U.S.A., was honored prior to the match, as it was her 200th career international competition. For Upton, it was the first time she competed in international play on American soil as a member of the Green Army.
"We were fortunate because both Paul (Caddy) and I were able to make the match. It was a sold-out crowd in Lancaster, so there was a great atmosphere," said Stevens. Bagpipers were also present to welcome the Irish team.
Stevens and Caddy both pulled for Team USA to secure the victory, but cheered on Upton - a three-time All-American at UConn - throughout the match. The U.S. won, 3-1, in the first of three matches over a four-day span.
"A couple times in the game, Melissa and Ro went head-to-head, so we held our breath because they are both really aggressive," said Stevens. "Melissa also hit that great milestone of 200 international matches. That made it extra special."
With Upton playing as a defensive midfielder and Gonzalez playing as an attacking midfielder, the former UConn standouts met several times on the field when racing for the ball.
UConn was well-represented on the field and in the stands, as parents of UConn players were there to watch the game - as well as Husky athletes, both alumni and present, to cheer on Melissa and Roisin.
"We were filled with pride, watching Melissa and Ro compete...With all the familiar faces in the crowd, there was a lot of love at that match," said Stevens.
Gonzalez was awarded the Citi Most Valuable Player of the Event, as the U.S. went 2-0-1 against the Irish team. Team U.S.A. beat Ireland on Friday, 2-0, while earning a 2-2 draw on Saturday.
Both the U.S. and Ireland now shift their focus to the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg, South Africa from July 8-23. Team U.S.A. will then host the Pan American Cups at Spooky Nook Sports from August 4-13 with a World Cup berth at stake.