Yes, Olympians get nervous too.
At least Princeton’s Katie Reinprecht admitted she did entering her senior campaign with the field hockey team after taking a year off to represent Team USA in London.
“Re-integrating with the team, there were two whole grades that I had never even met before,” Reinprecht said. “It ended up being a much smoother transition than I anticipated, and it’s been an awesome year thus far.”
Even describing Princeton’s season as awesome may be understating it: With a win over Penn in Saturday’s regular season finale, the No. 2 Tigers would finish the season 16-1 overall, 7-0 in the Ivy League.
It would also mean Reinprecht, already a two-time Ivy Player of the Year, would graduate with an unblemished 28-0 record in the Ancient Eight.
Her collegiate career has been unprecedented. In 2008, she became the first freshman in league history to earn MVP honors. She won again as a sophomore, when she didn’t even lead the league in points.
“Katie is a very great distributor,” Penn senior Sarah Hasson said. “She herself has amazing individual skills, but she only uses them when she has to. She’s more of a passer.”
When Reinprecht made the decision to leave Princeton, it wasn’t a given she would make the U.S. National Team.
And leaving school just before senior year wasn’t an easy choice.
“You’re not even guaranteed that you’re even going to the Olympics at that point, and you’re also not guaranteed you’ll be on the roster selected,” Reinprecht said. “It was really tough to decide that, ‘Yeah, I am going to take a year off,’ not knowing what the future will hold.”
But she didn’t have to take the jump on her own. Joining her were three teammates, including her younger sister, Julia.
“I really consider her one of my best friends, probably my best friend,” Katie said of her younger sibling. “Just to have her out there with me made it definitely a lot easier than it would’ve been being so far away from each other.”
Both Reinprechts made the 16-man roster. Of the two other Tigers to try out, Michelle Cesan was named as one of two alternates, but Kathleen Sharkey failed to make the cut.
Now, over a year later, Katie can take pride looking back at not only having made the squad, but also having helped the U.S. win its first field hockey title at the Pan American Games. The Americans beat Argentina, the top-ranked team in the world at the time, in the final. They later topped the Argentines again in Olympic pool play.
“We had yet to prove ourselves at that point, so to come away with a win really was huge for us and our confidence,” Reinprecht said.
Though the U.S. team failed to achieve its goal of advancing to the medal round, finishing 1-5 overall, she has no regrets.
“It was definitely an incredible experience and a lot was learned,” Reinprecht said. “I definitely want to go back and try to do it again and hopefully get a better outcome.”
- * *
Growing up in nearby North Wales, Pa., the Reinprecht sisters gained notoriety in the area even before the dream of playing in the Olympics entered their minds.
“They’re kind of like a dynasty for people who live in the suburbs of Philadelphia,” said Kyle deSandes-Moyer, a Penn senior who hails from Allentown, Pa.
Hasson, who played against Julia in high school and club-level play, noted the incredible chemistry between the siblings.
“I’m sure it’s because they’ve been playing together since they could walk, but they just know where the other is on the field at every moment,” Hasson said. “It’s kind of amazing to watch.”
And come Saturday, the Quakers may find themselves facing an even better Reinprecht duo than they’ve experienced in the past.
“They spent a whole year in California training,”
deSandes-Moyer said. “So I can only imagine how much stronger and faster they are now.”
For Katie, the focus remains keeping pace on Princeton’s incredible season. If there’s one thing that’s missing from her resume, it’s propelling the Tigers to a national championship game, and possibly winning the school its first NCAA title in program history.
The furthest the team has advanced during her time there was the national semifinals in 2009, where they ultimately succumbed to Maryland.
“I think time will only tell in that sense,” she said. “But it’s been a ton of fun. It’s nice being back in college again and experiencing it all over.”
Yes, Olympians appreciate college too.