Courtesy: Leslie Gaber, GoDuke the Magazine Release: 07/11/2014
Photo Courtesy: USA Field Hockey
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DURHAM -- The United States women’s national field hockey squad is on the rise, and its performances during the 2013-14 competitive year prove it. A former Blue Devil has had a hand in helping the U.S. establish itself among the elite teams in the world.
Stefanie Fee, a 2012 graduate of Duke, started every game for the Blue Devils during her four seasons in Durham. A standout defender, she earned All-America, All-ACC and All-ACC Tournament accolades as a senior, in addition to being named to the Longstreth/NFHCA All-South Region first team. During her final year, Duke’s back line ranked second in the ACC and eighth nationally in goals against average (1.2).
Fee also spent the 2012 season as a volunteer assistant coach with the Blue Devils and continues to be the namesake for one of the program’s annual awards, the Stef Fee Duke True Award.
The Virginia Beach, Va., native was selected to the U.S. national team during the summer of 2012 and embarked on her first tour to the International Hockey Federation Champions Challenge in Ireland later that year. Since then, her travels with Team USA have taken her across the globe to places such as Brazil, England, Argentina and the Netherlands.
The former Blue Devil and her U.S. teammates spend countless hours in between tournaments practicing, lifting, receiving treatment and maintaining overall good health. During the year, the squad utilizes the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster, Pa., as its home base for training. The constant preparation for competition consumes the majority of Fee’s time, although she says she and three other teammates have also been involved with ECORE Athletic, a company that turns recycled rubber into safe playing surfaces for athletes. Fee currently serves as a social media specialist for the organization, contributing blog posts to the ECORE Athletic website.
Despite the business of her day-to-day life, Fee truly enjoys representing the United States at the highest level.
“My favorite part about representing the U.S. is standing side by side with my teammates in our country’s colors, listening to the national anthem before a match,” she says.
The team has had the opportunity to line up together and hear the national anthem played on the biggest stages in several recent competitions. Last year, the U.S. took fifth at the World League Semi-Final in London before placing second at the Pan American Cup in Mendoza, Argentina. That earned the squad qualification to the 2014 Rabobank World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.
Team USA prepared for the World Cup by hosting a test series against Canada in March, defeating the Canadian squad in four indoor matches at Spooky Nook. The U.S. then headed to Glasgow, England the following month for the 2014 Champions Challenge. A strong performance there, including a 3-1 finals victory over Ireland, gave the team its first gold medal at that tournament.
Coming into the World Cup ranked 10th in the world, the U.S. made noise by playing to a fourth-place finish overall. The team reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 20 years and posted victories over England, China, Germany and South Africa along the way.
“Our mindset stepping into the World Cup was hungry,” Fee says. “There was only about a group of 30 people who understood the hard work and grueling effort we had put in to prepare for such a tournament. Other than that, everyone else in the field hockey world saw us as a team that worked hard, but no true threat. After training and practicing with such intensity, our hunger to step on the field and just play hockey allowed us to stick to the process and not be too medal focused. This mindset was a major asset to our success.”
Fee also noted the atmosphere in Holland was exciting, with many hockey fans making the trip to watch the world’s best men’s and women’s teams vie for the World Cup title. She recalls the Dutch fans proudly donned the nation’s traditional bright orange at the hockey venues, contributing to the loud surroundings.
“Kyocera Stadion seated 20,000 fans, which put my past experiences of max 700 to shame,” she said. “During the warm up of our first game I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest, but once I entered the game I didn’t even notice the faces surrounding me.”
As Team USA enters the 2014-15 season, the program remains focused on continuing to reach new heights internationally. Fee will once again be on the national team roster for the coming year, an achievement that Duke head coach Pam Bustin says aptly reflects all of the former Blue Devil’s hard work and dedication.
“Stef continues to dedicate herself to developing her game to the international elite level,” Bustin said. “She approaches her training in the most professional and respectful way. Her ‘team first’ attitude continues to carry her to the top and makes her the ideal representative for USA. I could not be prouder of her efforts, her attitude, her commitment and her performances. She had a great year last year and only more to come.”
Fee will be joined on the national team by a familiar face in 2014-15. Current Blue Devil goalkeeper Lauren Blazing, who is coming off of earning third team All-America status in 2013, was one of seven newcomers recently added to the U.S. roster by head coach Craig Parnham. With Fee and Blazing set to represent the U.S. in its upcoming tours, the connection between the Duke field hockey program and the national squad looks to remain solid, as both players will seek to help Team USA take firm hold of a place among the world’s elite.