As the summer came to a close, coach Michele Madison was fretting about whether two of her best players - junior midfielders Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese - would be available for the first two weeks of the season. Both Selenski and Vittese trained with the U.S. national field hockey team during the summer and were slotted to participate in the 2010 Women's Field Hockey World Cup.
At the start of preseason training in early August, the team then adopted its new motto: "obnoxiously positive." The squad was not only wondering whether Selenski and Vittese would be available, but also was coming into the season with a large amount of attrition and burdened with championship expectations.
Once it was decided that the U.S. would not participate in the World Cup, however, Selenski and Vittese returned to their Virginia teammates in mid-August. The two stars had plenty of pointers from their national team experiences to share with their teammates, and what could have turned into a very significant obstacle for this season's team became something positive instead.
Both Selenski and Vittese - aware of the international field hockey scene through their national team and youth team experiences - assert that the international game possesses many elements that could help Virginia improve its play and become more competitive.
"There's a lot more pressure," Vittese said. "They work really hard and focus a lot more on skills than we do here. I remember a coach telling me about ESPN lauding 'hustle plays' here since we focus a lot on speed, strength and fitness. It's not like that in the rest of the world - they smoothly attack more and defend harder."
Madison heeded Selenski and Vittese's observations, agreeing about the level of intensity and seriousness international players apply to training and games.
"Internationals are the hardest workers, the ones who are the first to come and last to leave," Madison said. "Michelle and Paige's preparation and execution are noticeably different [after touring Europe with the U.S. national team during the summer] and that's very positive."
Madison and her staff, in fact, have sought to improve the field hockey program during the past few years by stepping up international recruiting. Former Cavaliers Charlotte van den Broek, Floor Vogels and Inga St