Playing for the red, white and blue

Published 8:13 pm Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lakeland’s Kelsey Smither and Nansemond River alum Stephanie Tarafas were named to U.S. Field Hockey junior national teams, making the cut from among 114 players, the top junior players in the nation, at U.S. Field Hockey Junior National Camp July 16-19 at the University of Maryland.

Smither, a rising senior with the Lady Cavaliers, was named to the U19 and U21 national teams for 2011. Smither was one of three players named to both squads.

Tarafas, an incoming freshman goalkeeper for James Madison starting later this month, is an alternate for the U19 team.

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Both players played on U.S. teams this year. Smither played on the U17 team. Its biggest tournament was the 2010 Pan American Youth Championships in Uruguay in March.

Smither was a starter throughout the tournament, in which the U.S. finished third of eight countries, defeating Bermuda, Chile and Uruguay during the Championships, but falling to eventual champs Argentina in the semifinals.

The U.S. finished the tournament with a 7-1 win over Chile in the bronze medal game. The victory came after losing 2-0 versus Chile during the preliminary round.

Smither, a midfielder/defender for Lakeland, earned all-district, all-region and all-state honors last year in leading the Lady Cavs to second place in the Eastern Region and the Group AAA state semifinals. Smither scored 17 goals last season for the Lady Cavs.

With her senior year still to come, Smither has verbally committed to a scholarship offer from Old Dominion.

Katelyn Smither, Kelsey’s older sister, played for four seasons, 2005-09, for the Lady Monarchs earning, among many other honors, CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) All-Rookie, First Team All-CAA and multiple academic awards.

In June, Katelyn was named to USA Field Hockey’s 2010-11 Women’s Development Squad, a group of 12 players who are reserves for the 24-player national team as the U.S. team works toward the 2012 London Olympics.

Tarafas was the first-string goalkeeper for the U19 team in April during a four-match tour of Argentina. The U.S. went 2-2, getting one win against the Argentina U18 team and a win against club team Banfield.

There’s another set of incredible Suffolk links at the goalkeeper position on U.S. national teams, and at JMU.

Lakeland alum and ’10 JMU alum Kelsey Cutchins was on the previous U.S. U21 team at goalie. Tarafas enters the Lady Dukes the season after Cutchins, an All-American, CAA Player of the Year and CAA Student-Athlete of the Year, graduated.

The camp at Maryland included two or three practice sessions per day with the players, “battling the grueling heat,” according to USA Field Hockey. The players also had tactical, or classroom, sessions. The USA Field Hockey coaches named their squads at the end of the camp.

The U.S. U19 team already has a trip to Chile scheduled on its 2011 calendar.

The U21 team is coached by Tracey Fuchs. In a 17-year playing career, Fuchs played in 268 international matches, the most by any U.S. player. Fuchs is also head coach at Northwestern.

Closer to home, Lakeland’s district schedule starts on Aug. 25. JMU opens its season Aug. 27.