July 10, 2012
This past June, University of Michigan field hockey players Ainsley McCallister (Ann Arbor, Mich./Huron) and Liesl Morris (Lafayette, N.J./The Taft School) competed on the Midwest High Performance team in the 2012 U.S. Women's National Championships in College Park, Md. McCallister and Morris (along with volunteer coach Maren Langford) played in five games versus stellar competition, including players that will be in London representing the United States in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The duo talks about their experience during the week and how it will help them this fall for the Maize and Blue.
What were your initial thoughts when you learned you would be playing in the U.S. Women's National Championships?
Ainsley McCallister: I was excited to play at a new, higher level, to see what was out there, to have my game be challenged and to learn from it.
Liesl Morris: Ha, stunned and thrilled, of course. Throughout my hockey career I have enjoyed watching the national championship tournament. The realization that I would be a part of it was a tad surreal.
What was it like to play with the nation's best field hockey players and athletes that will be representing the U.S. in the 2012 Summer Olympics?
AM: Playing alongside future Olympians was a very neat experience and I can't wait to watch them compete come the end of July. The Olympians on my team had a demeanor that made everyone around them step up. Their overall knowledge of the game and communication led our team.
LM: Unforgettable. There are certain points in your life that will be forever instilled in your memory; playing alongside these women was most assuredly one of them.
What was it like to play with (volunteer coach) Maren Langford on the Midwest team? Did she help you with preparing for the event?
AM: It was awesome. Maren is always such fun and having her as a teammate was so nice. Maren's been scrimmaging with us in practices since my freshman year, which always raises the speed of play and intensity. As with our skills being challenged, we see the work rate we need to have to have our team be at the next level; it's inspiring. Also, by knowing that in practice we've had to make tackles against and to dribble against one of the nation's top players, it gives me a sense of confidence against any opponent.
LM: I owe much of my survival of freshman preseason to Maren Langford and her contagious energy. The opportunity to be wearing the same jersey as her was all the preparation needed.
What was the highlight of the event for you?
AM: My favorite part of the trip was actually when I went on an adventure with four other Midwest teammates and ended up at a nice little crab restaurant. It was my first time ever having crab meat, and to be honest at first I found the process to be quite disgusting, but I quickly embraced the experience and it ended up being full of laughs and so memorable!
LM: That's a tough one. Given the spot of stick stopper during corners allowed me to frequently assist two Olympians to score, which was achieved several times throughout the tournament. My accomplishment to steady my hands just in time for the ball to hit my stick was by far my most successful highlight.
What will you take from this experience into training camp in August and the upcoming 2012 season?
AM: The importance of keeping a very quick pace of play in practices while also always being able to perform the basics. Also, after getting to be good friends with many girls from other Big Ten schools, the games will carry that much more weight and be that much more fun.
LM: Ainsley and I were given an opportunity to play with and against some of the best field hockey players in the nation, and world. Skill was not the only aspect that made the tournament unforgettable. The dedication, camaraderie and simple enjoyment of the game between the team and every player at the tournament made up an atmosphere that will hopefully parallel our fast approaching 2012 season.