Argentina bound

Published 7:38 pm Saturday, March 13, 2010

Nansemond River senior Stephanie Tarafas has an unbelievable Spring Break lined up.

In three weeks, Tarafas, who’s one of the best high school field hockey goalies in the country, will be playing goalie for the U.S. Under-19 National Team as it travels to Argentina.

It’ll be the first time playing for a U.S. national team and the first time playing internationally for Tarafas, who’s accepted a full scholarship offer to go to college and play field hockey at James Madison starting in the fall.

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In mid-February, Tarafas was one of 24 U-19 players from around the country who went to San Diego and the U.S. Olympic Training Center to try out for the team. Eighteen players, with Tarafas as one of two goalkeepers, made Team U.S.A. for the upcoming tour.

“They got to take a look at us,” Tarafas said. “We mainly just practices, went through drills and different sessions. We also got to watch the men’s national team play and that was pretty cool.”

During the three-day camp, the youth-team goalies trained under Women’s National Team goalkeeper Amy Tran.

The U.S. Men’s National Team played Canada during the U-19 team camp. The U-19 team also scrimmaged against the U-17 team, meaning Tarafas faced Lakeland junior Kelsey Smither, a defender on the U.S. U-17 team. Only this time it was Nansemond River vs. Lakeland more than 3,000 miles from Suffolk. The U-19 team won the scrimmage.

“Kelsey is going to Uruguay on the U-17 team. That’s not too bad either,” Tarafas said.

The U-17 team is currently in Uruguay playing in the 2010 Pan American Youth Championship. It’s effectively the youth championship of the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s all a first-time thing. It’s pretty exciting. Mainly it’s just a great chance to gain experience and knowledge and have an awesome experience going to another country,” Tarafas said.

The U.S. team will play matches against similar youth teams in Argentina, incluiding Argentina’s U-19 National Team.

Tarafas sees the trip and the chance to play for the U.S. as an accomplishment, but even more so as opportunity to improve.

“As a player, I want to be able to play more confidently,” Tarafas said about her individual goals and expectations.

“A lot of times I’m a little anxious. I hesitate and don’t completely rely on my ability. The main thing I want to gain is confidence in my play,” Tarafas said.

Most of the players on the U-19 squad are high school players. Players on either junior national team are considered the most likely candidates for future Olympic teams, for potentially as early as the 2012 and more likely for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

When it comes to being one of the best high-school age keepers in the nation, Tarafas has an interesting outlook.

“I kind of feel that just means I have a long way I can fall. I mean, it’s great to be thought of as one of the best, but I have to make sure I keep working and keep improving,” Tarafas said.

A week before traveling to Argentina, Tarafas and the U.S. team will gather at the University of Maryland to practice.

“To see another country and play field hockey, and play against such competitive teams, it’s definitely awesome. I’m really excited,” Tarafas said.