DURHAM, N.C. – As members of the Duke field hockey program make their way back to campus for the first practice of the 2013 campaign, three players are bringing with them international playing experience from an eventful summer of competition.
Junior forward Jessica Buttinger played for her native Canada in the 2013 ERGO Hockey Junior World Cup earlier this month in Mönchengladbach, Germany, while redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing and sophomore midfielder Aileen Johnson competed on the United States under-21 national team. Duke was also represented at the week-long international tournament by head coach Pam Bustin, who served as an assistant coach with the U.S. squad.
The Junior World Cup featured 16 teams from across the globe, split into pools of four teams each. Following pool play, the participating squads moved into placement matches.
Blazing and Johnson were selected to Team USA’s 18-player roster after taking part in the program’s Junior National Camp in June. Blazing, the squad’s starting goalkeeper, and Johnson, who scored in a 6-0 win over Ghana, guided the U.S. to a 3-3 ledger and a seventh-place finish overall.
“After training for the last year to play against the top teams in the world, we ended up matching the best result the U.S. has seen at this tournament,” Blazing said. “Our play improved from game to game, and it was especially good to come through and win our last game. At the same time, I hope that this result can be a jumping off point for future Junior World Cup teams, who might realize the potential that our country has to become a hockey powerhouse and continue to set the bar even higher.”
Bustin said Team USA’s results at the World Cup are indicative of the continued growth of the program in recent years and of upcoming talent within the country.
“The progress and growth I have had the good fortune to witness and be a part of within this age group has been astonishing,” she said. “I commend all of our U.S. field hockey athletes who have participated in our road to the Junior World Cup. It really has been a three to four-year development process with many talented athletes representing USA in various tournaments and training camps … I will be watching their continued development as many of them will vie to represent our nation on our senior team through Rio and beyond.”
Buttinger was part of a Canadian squad that finished 14th, narrowly falling to Belgium in a shootout in the team’s final match. A native of Waterloo, Ontario, Buttinger registered the game-winning goal against Russia earlier in the tournament, highlighting a 5-1 Canadian victory.
“My team did not place as well as we had wanted but it only motivates us more to do the things individually and as a collective to utilize and reach the full potential we have as a squad,” Buttinger said. “Overall, I had an amazing learning experience.”
All three Duke players noted the opportunity to travel abroad and compete against some of the game’s top talent will prepare them even more for the collegiate season ahead.
“Coming in the top half of the tournament is a big accomplishment,” Johnson said. “The Junior World Cup was a once in a lifetime opportunity to play against the best U-21 players from around the world. I learned a lot and have hopefully grown as a player to help aid the Duke team.”
Bustin says she is proud of the representation Duke had in the tournament, and of each player’s performance.
“It was a special time to share such a familiar experience to me with some of my own collegiate players who represented their countries at such an important tournament for the first time,” she said. “There is no doubt that their exposure to the world’s highest level of their age group will benefit each of their games and help elevate Duke’s play.”
The Duke field hockey program begins preseason practice Thursday, Aug. 15 before opening play with a scrimmage against North Carolina Saturday, Aug. 24 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Blue Devils kick off the 2013 campaign with a contest against Indiana Friday, Aug. 30 at 3 p.m. at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.