Two players participated in their first-ever training session with the full U.S. Women’s National Team yesterday – defender Amy LePeilbet and goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill. LePeilbet, a senior at Arizona State who finished her eligibility last fall, and Luckenbill, a three-year WUSA veteran, have different levels of experience, as well as different positions, but both shared their thoughts on their first practice.
From the Mountains to the Ocean
Luckenbill traded her skis and snow for cleats and grass as she has been coaching the ski racing team at the Vail Mountain School, a prep school in the beautiful winter resort, since the WUSA suspended operations. Luckenbill, who coaches girls and boys, first got hooked on barreling down a mountain at 70 miles an hour on two thin pieces of graphite when she was a freshman in high school and transferred from Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pa., to Stratton Mountain School in Vermont for the winter term, where she competed on the ski racing team. (Luckenbill is quick to note that there is nowhere to ski race in her hometown of Paoli, Pa.) She loved it so much, she ended up taking the winter term in Vermont four years in a row and actually graduated from Stratton, before going on to Dartmouth. At the Ivy League school, Luckenbill competed on the ski team for three and half years before being drafted into the WUSA. Oh yeah, she was also an All-American goalkeeper for the Big Green. The starter for the Carolina Courage for two and a half seasons, and the 2002 WUSA Goalkeeper of the Year, "Lucks" shared her thoughts on her first national team training:
"It was just a lot of fun getting back out on the field," said Luckenbill, who is no stranger to facing hard shots, having squared off against the canons of Germany’s Birgit Prinz and the USA’s Danielle Fotopoulos every day at training with the Courage. "It’s been a long time since I played soccer and I was psyched to get out there again. It was a pretty light day, but the level was obviously high from a technical standpoint, but similar to the WUSA. I’ve been facing these players in games for three seasons, so it’s nice to have them all on my team instead of running at me."
From the Desert to the Sea
The 21-year-old LePeilbet has been a star of the U.S. Under-21 National Team the past two years, playing every minute in the center of the defense for USA during title runs to two Nordic Cup championships. An All-American for the Sun Devils as a senior, she was likely a top pick in the next WUSA draft, but will instead get the chance to show her talents on the national team level. The rugged but soft-spoken defender shares her thoughts on her first national team training:
"I thought it went okay," said LePeilbet, who did not miss a start in her four-years at ASU, playing in 74 career games. "I was so nervous and a little scared going into it, but I didn’t fall on my face or anything so my nerves will be a little bit calmer tomorrow. The pace is definitely fast, I could tell that right away, but it’s fun. I need to pick up my speed of play, but when other players are playing at that pace, it’s easier to speed up your game. That’s definitely something I need to work at and get used to."
She Said It:
Goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill on going 70 miles per hour while ski racing in high school.
"I don’t do that anymore. That’s when I was young and didn’t know any better."