Lo­cals lead U.S. suc­cess at Croa­tia Cup

Camp­bell, Sessa, Palde en­joy 1-2 Amer­i­can fin­ish at in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion

The Phoenix - - SPORTS - By Austin Hert­zog ahert­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @AustinHert­zog on Twit­ter

It was an Amer­i­can in­va­sion at the Croa­tia Cup in Sveti Ivan Zelina, Croa­tia, Jan­uary 4-6. More specif­i­cally, a south­east­ern Pa. in­va­sion.

With rep­re­sen­ta­tives from this cor­ner of the state in­clud­ing Mer­cury-area ath­letes Ali (McEvoy) Camp­bell (Boy­er­town), Ash­ley Sessa (Sch­wenksville) and Josephine Palde (Sch­wenksville), the United States Se­nior and Un­der-21 women’s in­door na­tional field hockey teams were dom­i­nant in the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

The se­nior team fea­tur­ing Camp­bell and Spring-Ford fresh­man Sessa went un­de­feated to claim the cham­pi­onship of the seven-team round-robin tour­na­ment.

Hill School sopho­more Palde and the un­der-21 team placed sec­ond, de­feat­ing three se­nior na­tional teams ranked in the world top 30 in the process. Their only loss came against the U.S. se­nior team.

The lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the cham­pi­ons touched both ends of the spec­trum, the for­mer Univ. of Mary­land great and USWNT out­door na­tional Camp­bell (Boy­er­town Class of 2010) be­ing joined by Sessa, a 14-year-old fresh­man at Spring-Ford.

“I had a great time and learned so much from my team­mates that have been at this level many times be­fore,” said Sessa. “Han­nah (Prince), Ali, Mad­die (Orobono) and Cor­rine (Zanolli) were al­ways there to sup­port and push me.”

They were seem­ingly the per­fectly in­tended blend.

“I am pleased how this group has come to­gether as a team,” said head coach Jun Ken­twell. “We have a tal­ented group of young play­ers who have gained valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence here, both play­ing in this in­ter­na­tional event, and play­ing with and be­ing led by play­ers who com­peted in the In­door World Cup last Fe­bru­ary.”

The U.S. se­nior team was led by Corinne Zanolli (New­ton Square, Epis­co­pal Academy Class of 2017), who re­ceived the Best Player of the Tour­na­ment Award and Top Goal Scorer Award with 14 to­tal goals through­out the tour­na­ment.

While U.S. in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion is old hat for Camp­bell, it’s any­thing but for the 14-year-old Sessa who is one of the youngest se­nior team se­lec­tions in U.S. his­tory.

“I have to ad­mit, when I walked out onto the court for my first game I was re­ally ner­vous,” Sessa said. “But as I was play­ing that all faded and I just played my game.”

She got a nice ice­breaker as Camp­bell and Sessa scored the tour­na­ment’s first two goals, their early tal­lies lead­ing the se­nior team over the U-21s, 18-4.

The U-21s didn’t let the loss linger, go­ing 5-0 the rest of the three-day tour­na­ment, claim­ing wins over the se­nior teams from Croa­tia (FIH In­door No. 20), Slovakia (No. 27) and Slove­nia (No. 29). Palde tal­lied in the wins over Slovakia and Slove­nia.

“It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence,” Palde said. “I got to play at a re­ally high level of com­pe­ti­tion and spend time with some of my friends and meet new peo­ple from the se­nior team I haven’t met be­fore, got to train with them over a six-month pe­riod which is re­ally nice.”

Play­ers trained over a six­month pe­riod at The Train­ing Cen­ter in Lim­er­ick ahead of ros­ter se­lec­tions and com­pe­ti­tion in Croa­tia.

While Palde had com­peted abroad be­fore, as an eighth grader in the Nether­lands with her West Ch­ester Ea­gles club team, the U.S. ex­pe­ri­ence was unique be­sides be­ing in­door where teams are 6 vs. 6 (in­clud­ing the goal­keeper) in a quicker, faster-paced game than its out­door rel­a­tive.

“I liked play­ing with USA be­cause I got a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive play­ing with dif­fer­ent peo­ple and I got to learn more from other peo­ple,” she said. “It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence over­all. I got to see Za­greb and other parts of Croa­tia, it was re­ally nice.”

Along with Palde, south­east Pa. play­ers were Academy of Notre Dame ju­nior Mia Leon­hardt (Me­dia), Mount St. Joseph’s sopho­more Me­gan Maran­sky (Blue Bell) and Epis­co­pal Academy sopho­more Kelly Smith (Down­ing­town) and fresh­man Macy Szu­kics (Malvern).

The U.S. se­nior team, ranked No. 12 in the world, outscored op­po­nents 76-8 over the tour­na­ment. In the fi­nal match of the Croa­tia Cup, the se­nior In­door USWNT took on the host na­tion in front of a packed sta­dium. Camp­bell gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead they would not re­lin­quish en route to a 8-3 win in the fi­nale.

“My most mem­o­rable mo­ment was when they an­nounced our team as the cham­pi­ons of the 2019 Croa­tia Cup and the en­tire team com­ing to­gether to re­ceive it,” Sessa said. “I am so lucky to be part of this team with such great ath­letes.”

COUR­TESY USA FIELD HOCKEY

The United States se­nior and un­der-21 in­door na­tional teams com­peted at the Croa­tia Cup from Jan. 4-6. The se­nior team, fea­tur­ing Ali McEvoy Camp­bell (Boy­er­town), stand­ing fifth from left, and Ash­ley Sessa (Sch­wenksville), stand­ing sixth from left, won the cham­pi­onship. Josephine Palde, kneel­ing fourth from right, helped the un­der-21 team to a run­ner-up fin­ish.

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