Paige Selenski has been to the world’s premier event in amateur athletics.
The Dallas High School graduate returned from the London 2012 Olympic Games to complete one of the most successful field hockey careers in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
Selenski is done with her time at the University of Virginia, but there is no reason to think her playing days are over.
Last month, Selenski both graduated from Virginia and earned a spot on the latest 30-player United States Women’s National Squad.
“I’m just going to take it slow right now,” said Selenski, who made the team through the Women’s National Championships at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. “Right now, my heart is still in field hockey and playing the game.”
It’s a bit early in the process to determine whether Selenski, who will be 23 later this month, has another Olympics appearance in her future. She is motivated by another major international event.
“Four years is a long time,” Selenski said. “I think for most hockey players, the World Cup kind of splits it up.
“There are two years between the Olympics and the World Cup. Everybody I play with wants to play in a World Cup, as well.”
That gives Selenski a target on the playing field for 2014 at a time in her life when she is also preparing for the next step elsewhere.
“That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for a while,” said Selenski, a speedy forward who finished her career at Virginia as the eighth-leading scorer in NCAA Division I history, a four-time All-American and the 2012 ACC Player of the Year after redshirting in 2011 to concentrate on national team play. “Just graduating from a great university obviously opens up a lot of opportunities.”
Selenski, who earned a degree in English, said other life decisions will have to be made as they come up. For now, she is looking forward to moving back to Pennsylvania with the national team when USA Field Hockey moves its headquarters to Lancaster this summer.
Last summer ended with Selenski scoring a goal in the Olympics. She had the only score for the United States in a 2-1 loss to Belgium in the final game, which determined 11th and 12th place in the 12-team field.
“My goal at the Olympics came at a pretty rough time for our whole team,” she said. “It was our last game and, obviously, the outcome was not what we wanted at all.
“A lot of it was that we were unlucky in the beginning. It was good for me to end the Olympics on a good note.”
The way the Olympics as a whole turned out is fresh in the minds of Selenski and the rest of Team USA.
“That drives us every day, every practice,” Selenski said, “especially for those of us who competed at the Olympics and the outcome was not anywhere near what we wanted it to be.
“That fuels our fire. We know we’re better than what we did at the Olympics.”
That disappointment, combined with a new head coach, could have added uncertainty to those trying to maintain spots on the national team.
The latest roster was selected, as it is each season, following the Women’s National Championships.
A dozen players with Olympic experience are part of the 30-player roster.
“Especially with a new coach, you don’t know what he wants; you don’t know what he’s looking for,” Selenski said. “There’s a bunch of us who have the title of Olympian, but you still have to show what you’re capable of and how skillful you are on the field.
“There are people always fighting to take your spot. You really have to be on top of your game at all times.”
The national tournament is the yearly highlight of a process in which Selenski and others now on the Women’s National Squad alternately compete against and then alongside each other.
Not long after being named to the team, they were back to that battle again.
During training, they were trying to convince Craig Parnham that they were worthy of being among the 18 players selected to compete at the World League Semifinal.
Selenski again made the cut. She was with the team that was scheduled to leave for London yesterday to get ready for Saturday’s opener against Argentina, the silver medalist at the London Olympics.
For Selenski to have a chance to be on a U.S. roster in the World Cup, she will first have to assist the team in the process of qualifying.
The World League Semifinal is the first step in qualifying for the World Cup. The United States finished sixth in the 2006 World Cup, but missed qualifying in 2010 when it fell a game short. China and Italy are also in Pool A with the United States and Argentina.
The quarterfinals in the eight-team event begin June 27 with the top four teams advancing to the World League Final.
“We will aim to finish as high as possible, with the immediate challenge of qualifying for the World Cup,” Parnham said in a press release. “ … The crucial game will be the quarterfinal which will determine whether a team progresses through to the top four places.”
When the World Cup Semifinal is over, Selenski will be back to National Squad training where she will be joined by Wyoming Seminary graduates Kelsey Kolojejchick and Kat Sharkey, who made the 30-player team, but not the 18-player group that is in action this week.
“It’s good to have players who are familiar to me also playing on the national level,” said Selenski, the 2007 Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year. “Knowing that there are three girls out of 30 shows how much talent comes out of our area.
“Hopefully, there are girls in the Wyoming Valley that look up to us and know that they have the potential to be at the same level.”
Even as a graduate from an area accustomed to producing some of the nation’s top field hockey talent, Selenski has progressed to levels that few achieve.