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April 8, 2013

Back in early February, goalkeeper Rebecca Holden was named to the United States’ Under-19 Junior National Squad. The selection process began last summer at the 2012 National Futures Championship and Futures Elite Championship. In total, 102 athletes were selected from both events to attend the Junior National Camp, presented by Longstreth, and held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, July 9-12, 2012. At the camp, athletes received daily tactical sessions from some of the top field hockey coaches in the country, followed by test matches in the evening.

From the Junior National Camp, a select number of athletes were invited to attend a winter training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Following the winter training camp, eighteen under-17 athletes and eighteen under-19 athletes were selected to represent the U.S. Junior National Squads on an international tour in the Netherlands.

The team had an eight-day stay in the Netherlands, playing five games including taking on the Dutch Junior National Team. Holden sat down with to talk about the experience.

The team was selected in February. How much time did you have playing together before having to play together as a team?
Once we got there, we did two days of training before we did competitions. That way we could figure out everyone’s positions and the flow and where we needed to be before we jumped in and starting playing some Dutch teams.

How did the team fare?
We were 2-1-2, which I am happy. It would have been nice to have those two other wins instead of the ties. The only team we lost to was the Dutch National Team. That score was 4-1. It was a good match. It was a friendly, so we played three 20-minute thirds. It was exciting! At the end, we did a shootout under the new rules with the eight-seconds to score from the 25. We ended up winning the shootout. We lost the match but won the shootout. As a goalkeeper, that is exciting! Myself and the other goalkeeper there, Shannon Johnson, we split them, so we each did three. We each got two saves to get the win. Holding our own against Dutch teams, I can be happy.

What were some of the take-aways you have from playing with the US Junior National Team on this trip?
This was my first time being on one of the Junior National Teams. It was a great experience because it showed me what was expected of the National Team in an introductory way. It was `Here is your itinerary. This is the dress code. This is what we expect. This is international play. This is how you conduct yourself.’ It was a really exciting experience to be able to play against a level of athlete such as the Dutch. Their team won the gold medal at the Olympics. While we were there, we were watching these five-year-old girls and boys shooting on goal, doing reverse shots better than high school students here can. It was awesome to see that culture and see the level of commitment they have from an early age to get to the highest level.

I have aspirations of going to the Olympics and trying to get on those teams, so going to Amsterdam and being on this team and playing with those girls and wearing the USA jersey and performing well against international teams was a huge step in the right direction. It helped me with my confidence. And it also made me feel I can bring that confidence here to UVa and I can step up my game at UVa. I can bring that to other USA events that I have to do to get to the U-21 team. Now I move up in age group to U-21, which is intense because that is collegiate and post-collegiate. We’ll see what happens with that. Training sessions to get to the tournament and tryouts for that squad begin this month. That’s the next step to keep progressing.

What was the biggest difference in the hockey that you saw?
I noticed a big difference in watching the goalkeepers that they stay back on the line of the goal line more than we do. That puzzled me because you are giving them more angle. It’s against everything I have ever learned in terms of goalkeeping and what Annie Zinkavich has told me to do. It was a different style of goalkeeping. The biggest difference in the hockey overall was the intensity of it, especially with the Dutch U-18 team when we were playing them. The intensity and their effectiveness on shooting and executing give-and-goes and passes is seamless. They just do it. It’s a lot faster.

When I was playing in-cage for the Dutch U-18 game, the ball would be over there and it would be fine and suddenly the ball was on the other side and a girl was one-timing it and the shot was coming at my face. It is a much faster game and it was exciting. It was good to be introduced to a faster style of play because we see that at the collegiate level against certain teams, but I don’t think we see THAT intensity. They were `I have the ball. I’m in the circle. I’m shooting no matter what.’ They were taking high-risk shots all the time. It was a `go for the risk to get the reward’ style of play in the relentless way they were playing. It was exciting and a little intimidating being in that, but it was also eye-opening.

Did you get to do any sightseeing?
Five days into the trip, on a Wednesday, we went to Amsterdam. We went on a canal tour, so we got to see some of the Dutch harbors and the canals that were built up during the Dutch Golden Age. A lot of things that they used to do in the 15th century, they still do now. When they want to get a refrigerator or a couch into the second story of an apartment building, they put a pulley system up, like they did in the 1400’s, and they pull it up and into the window. It is exciting to see that, especially since I had learned about that last semester in one of my history courses.

We went to the Anne Frank House, which was incredible. Just being there and seeing the small spaces… Myself and Alyssa Parker from Maryland were going through the exhibit together and we stopped and just listened. And it was so loud, the people walking around. It was incredible that they lived and survived for two years in that environment of having to not move at all. We saw the pencil markings on the wall where the kids were growing up and they were marking where their height was. It was heartbreaking.

We went to an authentic Dutch restaurant where we had potato chips that smelled like fish but tasted like air. The chicken was cooked in some sort of peanut sauce, which was strange. The French fries were delicious. There was also some sort of sauerkraut.

We went on a huge ride almost as tall as a Ferris wheel. You are strapped into these seats that spin while the wheel is spinning. That was intense.

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