US Women’s National Field Hockey Team focused on their game, medaling

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey midfielder Rachel Dawson said when the team decided to embrace the word “United” as their motto, the team meant it. She, along with the other 15 players on the roster, is ready to go to Rio.

The 2016 summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil kicks off Friday, August 5. The team will play their first game on Saturday.

Regardless of Zika virus threats, and global terrorism, head Coach Craig Parnham and players agree, they are much more focused on winning the gold than “what ifs.”

“It’s definitely getting more real,” Lancaster County native Jill Witmer said at a meet and greet Friday at Spooky Nook. This is the 25-year old forward’s first Olympics. “When we first came together, three years ago, the team culture changed. We set a word for our team. That word is United. As we kind of built our culture, it wasn’t just a word for us. We put it into action. We came a long way, and I think we’re ready.”

Parnham said he went to Rio in March, which is the southern hemisphere’s summer season, he said. Neither is he concerned about the threat of zika virus, nor is he worried about global terror threats, he said.

“Every Olympics bring some elements of some stories that are being reported,” Parnham said. “There’s a lot of talk about Zika, of course. It’s something that we’re very aware of…We’re comfortable with the processes and procedures that have been put into place. And, we’re comfortable with the situation. It will be fine for us down there.”

Mid-fielder 22-year old Alyssa Manley, of Lititz, said she’s “not too concerned” about zika and terrorism. This has been her dream since she was a child, Manley said, and now it’s within reach. It’s her first Olympics.

“I’m more concerned about getting down there and playing and getting a medal,” Manley said. “I’m very excited. They are good nerves. Whenever I first start a game, I’m always pretty nervous, but once I start playing, I really get into it, and completely forget about my nerves.”

She added, “I never thought I’d truly would become a US Field Hockey player. I’m excited to get down there and just to start playing.”

Before the team leaves for Rio, they will have a three-game test series at Spooky Nook. They will play two games against India and one game against Canada.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Parnham said. “As with any team, I believe it grows when they play together. Part of what we did, when we started this journey, we trained centrally….we’re together all the time. It helps develop relationships and we have a good level of understanding. Everybody knows what’s happening. (Our approach) is very clear, and there are no hiding places…We’re ready to go…we want to play a fast game.”