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Lakeland’s Smither on Team USA

Lakeland junior Kelsey Smither and 16 more of the best young field hockey players in the nation will represent the United States in Uruguay starting this weekend at the 2010 Pan American Youth Championships.

The U.S. Field Hockey Women’s Under-17 National Team will be competing to be the best in the hemisphere and for a berth into the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this summer. The U.S.A.’s 17-player roster is made up of players born in 1993 or 1994.

Smither’s played everywhere on the field but in goal for the Lady Cavaliers during the last three seasons, but mostly as a center midfielder. For the U.S. National Team, Smither’s a defender.

“Kelsey Smither will be one of our main players in the back,” said the U.S. under-17 head coach Shellie Onstead. Onstead specifically mentioned three players, Smither and forwards Laura Gebhart from Mount Joy, Pa. and Allie Evans of Macungie, Pa. in a release about the tournament.

The team had a training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Ca. The team gathered on Mar. 8-9 at the University of Maryland for two days of training before departing for Montevideo, Uruguay.

The U.S. team’s first match is Saturday, March 13 against Bermuda. The U.S. plays Chile on March 14 and Uruguay on March 16. Canada, Argentina, Paraguay and Mexico are in the other pool.

The last two rounds are set for March 18 and 20. The champion goes directly to the Youth Olympic Games. If the U.S. doesn’t win, it could still qualify at a later date.

“We have to pay attention to Argentina. We have to pay attention to Canada, and we can’t take Chile lightly. On paper we look like we should finish in the top four,” Onstead said.