For the fourth year in a row, H2O, the field hockey club based in Harford County, won gold at the USA National Indoor Tournament (NIT). This year, for the first time in club history, they captured two titles, one in the U14 division, the other in the U19 age group.
USA Field Hockey held the U12 and the U14 NIT in Lancaster, Pa., on Feb. 21-23. H2O had three teams in the tournament and the H2O U14 Pink squad, competing in the ultra-tough "A" division brought the gold medal home to Harford County. They finished the pool play with a 5-1-1 record and won the three team tiebreaker by virtue of allowing the fewest goals. Their showing included wins against teams from power clubs WC Eagles, Spirit USA and Xcalibur.
Team members for the U 14 Pink team were Georgia Beachley, Sydney Beck, Rachel Borzymowski, Nathalie Friedman, Julia Kraft, Alyssa Kraus, Ariel Limpert and goalies Sylar Limpert and Diana Borg. The team was coached by Debbie Limpert, Lindsay Kasecamp and TJ Friedman.
A week later the U19 tournament was held in Richmond, Va., and the H2O representative won the NIT championship, finishing with a 6-1 record. The core of this squad began H2O's string of four consecutive indoor championships and has won each year moving up in age group from U14 through their first year at the U19 level. Four players have appeared on each of national championship teams - Linnea Gonzales, Gabrielle Karr, Sabrina Rhodes and Sydney Rhodes.
Gonzales, who plays in high school at Patterson Mill, and Sabrina Rhodes, C. Milton Wright, have been the primary playmakers and goal scorers for the team over the past four years. Gonzales has committed to NCAA power University of Maryland. Sabrina, along with her sister and H2O goalie, Sydney, have verbally committed to 2013 CAA Conference Champions University of Delaware. Cassidy Coates, Lindsay Kraus and Jenny Eckert have played on two of the gold medal winning squads. Molly Milani, who was instrumental in H2O's success last year during the outdoor Regional Club Championship win, was the team's newcomer.
H2O got off to a fast start in the U19 division with a win over Lanco Premier, 4-0, a team that would ultimately finish second with an identical record. H2O's lone setback happened in Game 4 when they lost to a Bison team out of Pennsylvania. They responded with three victories, completing the tournament by outscoring their opponents 34-11. The team was coached by Janice Rhodes and Alice Puckett. Puckett, Fallston High's very successful field hockey coach, is the head coach for the older age groups in H2O. Rhodes, CMW's head coach, has coached this team to each of its NIT championships.
USA field hockey made a change to the indoor game with the start of this season. Beginning last fall, there are five players on the court, usually four field players and a goalie. Previously there were six players on the court. This has made the game faster, more wide open and with more offense. Players who usually played a defensive position have to be more versatile. This effect was evident for H2O as two players, Lindsay Kraus and Gabby Karr, who had mostly played defense, were asked to play more on the offensive side of the ball. They both responded at NITs, where each scored hat-tricks (three-goal games) with Kraus doing it twice during the final day of play. Lindsay Kraus will play hockey at Gettysburg in the fall.
The National Indoor Tournament caps off the indoor season and it was a highly successful one for H2O. Collectively, the club won dozens of tournaments, with teams in every age group contributing to the success. Their two NIT Championships this year along with their four consecutive gold medals at the event, help keep them in the spotlight on the national hockey scene. Each year more Division 1 colleges are recruiting and signing H2O athletes. H2O competes in spring and summer events and holds tryouts for the indoor season in August. Each age group - U12, U14, U16 and U19 - play in regional tournaments in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania with an opportunity to qualify for national events. Athletes as young as 10 years old who want to be a part of H2O should visit their website or contact H2Ofieldhockey@comcast.net.