Playing for National Pride

It’s not every day that an athlete gets to represent his or her country in international competition. It’s even more rare to play for two of them. Rising sophomore Lisa McCarthy, a citizen of both the United States and Ireland, will get the chance to do just that.

In July, McCarthy was named to USA Field Hockey’s under-21 squad. The Dubliner had been a member of the Irish national team development program since age 15, but at the encouragement of her coaches and teammates, McCarthy made the switch, hoping to elevate her level of play.

“It’s funny, when I told my friends on the Irish team, they said, ‘It’s not England, so it’s OK,’ ” McCarthy jokes.

Putting on the red-white-and-blue jersey is a unique experience every time. Senior-to-be Nikki Parsley, a member of the U.S. Junior World Cup field hockey team who led the United States with eight goals at the 2012 Junior Pan-American Games, attested to the growth she’s experienced through international play.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, emotionally and mentally. I’m continuing to improve skill-wise and hopefully am bringing back different tactical things” from international play, says Parsley, who competed in the Junior World Cup in Mönchengladbach, Germany, from July 27 to Aug. 4.

This fall Parsley and McCarthy (and incoming freshman Lindsay von der Luft, a member of the U-19 team) hope to bring back some of that international style to Evanston, where the Wildcats look to improve upon last season’s stellar 16-4 record.

“We had an unbelievable season last year, but I think everyone is hungry after a tough winter and spring season,” says McCarthy, the 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. “We’ve lost big players, but we have a really great team atmosphere. I think we’re ready to play some good teams and put up some good scores.”

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