close
close

6 UMD athletes make it to the US Olympic teams

6 UMD athletes make it to the US Olympic teams
6 UMD athletes make it to the US Olympic teams

By LILLIAN GLAROS

University of Maryland graduate Kelee Lepage plays in an FIH Hockey Pro League game against New Zealand on Jan. 16. Lepage is one of five Terps named to the U.S. women’s field hockey team for the Summer Olympics.
Courtesy of USA Field Hockey

Four current and former University of Maryland (UMD) field hockey players will travel to Paris this month with one of the team’s assistant coaches for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

UMD graduates Kelee Lepage, Brooke DeBerdine and Leah Crouse as well as doctoral student Emma DeBerdine were elected as members of the 2024 US women’s Olympic field hockey team to play its first game on July 27 against Argentina. Assistant coach Jenny Rizzo is a provisional player, meaning she will play as goalkeeper if needed.

In addition, the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Olympics will include a former Terp, Alyssa Thomas, who played basketball for UMD from 2010 to 2014 and remains the team’s all-time leading scorer. Thomas plays in the WNBA for the Connecticut Sun.

“It feels so unreal,” said Lepage, a defense attorney who graduated from UMD in 2020 with a marketing degree College Park Here and Now“I am incredibly grateful that I can live out this dream.”

According to UMD Athletics, eleven former UMD field hockey players have participated in the Olympic Games. They are Katie Kauffman Beach, Lauren Powley, Dina Rizzo, Sarah Silvetti, Keli Smith-Puzo, Katie O’Donnell Bam, Jill Witmer and the four on this year’s team.

Lepage, who joined the U.S. national field hockey team in 2020, played as a defender for the UMD team from 2016 to 2020.

She grew up with the Olympics, Lepage said, and her dream of becoming an Olympian grew in high school, where she was coached by 1984 Olympic bronze medalist Brenda Hoffman.

Longtime head coach of the UMD women’s field hockey team, Missy Meharg, was one of the coaches who influenced Lepage on her path to the Olympics.

“When I was recruiting, she asked me if USA Hockey was a dream of mine and I told her yes and she said we will make sure I get there,” said Lepage, who 43 points, including three game-winning goals, during her time with the Terps.

“I think what I like most, honestly, is being part of a team, pushing each other to the limit, supporting each other and encouraging each other when things get tough,” Lepage said.

Rizzo also said she dreams of playing in the Olympics, although field hockey wasn’t always the former soccer player’s sport of choice. She started playing in fifth grade and, like Lepage, was inspired by past athletes on the national women’s field hockey team.

“I want to support my team as much as I can,” said Rizzo, who played goalie for Penn State before working as an assistant coach elsewhere and then coming to UMD. “I want to serve them and just do what I can to play the role they could play in these Olympics, whether I end up on the field or not.”

Rizzo said she was inspired by goalkeeper Jackie Briggs, who played for the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 and 2016.

“At that time, Jackie Briggs was just becoming the U.S. goalkeeper. I remember her poster hanging on the wall. Her determination and demeanor as a player just inspired me so much,” Rizzo said.

Training is tough as the team prepares, Rizzo said.

“We train mostly in the morning, from about 8 to 10 a.m., and then we either have weight lifting or a meeting. Some days we have optional technical sessions in the afternoon where we work on more fine-tuning of set pieces,” Rizzo said.

The team is training in Charlotte, North Carolina, where it will also compete against the U.S. Olympic men’s field hockey team.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *